Georgia gets marijuana decriminalization

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The Peach State’s governor completes the passage of cannabis reform laws

Georgia has made its first step into the legal cannabis scene after Governor Ralph Northam signed two bills into law. Both Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 972 were created to decriminalize marijuana possession, and this new legislation will be effective as of July 1.

Among other things, it will dramatically reduce penalties for personal possession offenses set at one ounce maximum. The violation of this law will just give the offender a $25 civil violation charge with no arrest nor a criminal record.

The new code language for these bills will also clear the records for past marijuana offenders for both employers and school administrators. The new law additionally adds the definition of substances previously considered hashish as marijuana. State Senator Adam Ebbin and House Majority Leader Delegate Charniele Herring were the two sponsors behind each bill. “This is a major step forward for criminal justice reform in Virginia,” Ebbin said. “The prohibition on marijuana has clearly failed and impacts nearly 30,000 Virginians per year. It’s well past time that we stop doing damage to people’s employment prospects, educational opportunities, and parental rights.”

“While marijuana arrests across the nation have decreased, arrests in Virginia have increased,” Herring added. “This bill will not eliminate the racial disparities surrounding marijuana, but it will prevent low-level offenders from receiving jail time for simple possession while we move toward legalization in coming years with a framework that addresses both public safety and equity in an emerging market.”

Both lawmakers had an important collaboration coming from the nonprofit marijuana advocacy group NORML, which has assisted in the development of these two bills. “NORML is proud to have worked alongside Sen. Ebbin and Del. Herring, both longtime champions of evidence-based cannabis policy,” said NORML development director, Jenn Michelle Pedini.