A bill decriminalizing marijuana in Atlanta was signed into law today. And then it wasn’t. And then it was. Thanks to a bizarre series of tweets, the people of Atlanta were left wondering whether mayor Kasim Reed had actually signed the marijuana ordinance. But now, we have confirmation: the Atlanta mayor signed a marijuana decrim bill into law.
Decrim Ordinance Confirmed After ‘Political Stunt’
Just over a week ago, on October 2, the Atlanta City Council held a vote on a city ordinance that would significantly lower the penalties for anyone caught with cannabis. The city council unanimously passed the ordinance, sending it to the desk of mayor Kasim Reed. A proponent of the new law, which had overwhelming public support, Reed was expected to sign the bill without hesitation.
But at 6:06 a.m. Wednesday morning, the verified Twitter account of the Atlanta City Council sent out a tweet saying that Reed had instead vetoed the bill.
The early-morning tweet, which has since been deleted, read, “We received an email overnight that the Mayor VETOED our marijuana legislation for less than one ounce.”
If true, the veto would have come as a shock to the people of Atlanta.
For one, backing out of decriminalizing cannabis would have been extremely unpopular. And it would have gone against Reed’s very vocal support of the ordinance.
Alluding to political adversaries in the Atlanta City Council, Reed’s initial response was to label the incorrect 6 a.m. tweet a “political stunt.” Those remarks came on a morning radio talk show during which Reed was interviewed about the bill.
The city council retracted the tweet a little before 7 a.m., about 40 minutes after it was first sent. They also issued a recall that the mayor did not in fact veto the marijuana bill.
RECALL: Mayor did not veto marijuana legislation
— Atlanta City Council (@ATLCouncil) October 11, 2017
A later correction noted the veto information was instead about an unrelated land sale.
Atlanta Mayor Signs Historic Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
After learning of Reed’s “political stunt” accusation, the Atlanta City Council immediately began passing the buck.
First, the blame fell on communications director Dexter Chambers. He then shifted the blame to a “new hire,” who he said didn’t understand procedure.
Reed has spent the rest of the day denying that he’s overly upset about the mix up. He wants to bring the focus back to the importance of the legislation.
Previously, possession of up to an ounce of cannabis would land you with a $1,000 fine and a maximum jail sentence of six months. Now, with the new city ordinance, the penalty is reduced to just a $75 ticket and no jail time.
Supporters of the bill point out that Atlanta’s enforcement of marijuana laws has been, like many other places in the country, a racial issue and a criminal justice issue.
Councilman Kwanza Hall, who introduced the bill back in March 2017, described how the previous laws disproportionately impacted people of color. “People are losing their jobs. People are losing their scholarships. Families are being torn apart for something that we should really be ashamed of,” Hall said.