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Confusion Over Atlanta Marijuana Decrim

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UPDATE: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced on Wednesday morning that he signed marijuana decriminalization into law. The news follows false reports, recounted below, that he had vetoed the measure. 

Confusion swelled Wednesday morning over the status of Atlanta’s pending marijuana decriminalization ordinance.

Mayor Kasim Reed (D) had until midnight on Tuesday to sign or veto the legislation, or let it go into effect without his signature.

A little after 6:00 AM on Wednesday, the City Council, which had approved the proposal last week by a vote of 15-0, tweeted that Reed had vetoed it.

Reed, however, denied it in a series of tweets reacting to news reports about the alleged veto.

The Council issued a correction, saying that the veto message they received actually concerned separate legislation over a land sale.

Following the Council’s unanimous passage of the decriminalization proposal last week, Reed tweeted that he would sign it.

Per the measure, the threat of jail time for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis would be eliminated under local code. Instead, those caught with small amounts would be subject to a maximum fine of $75.

Currently, people who encounter police while possessing marijuana face fines of up to $1,000 and as many as six months in jail.

But the changes would only apply to city policy. Even if the proposal takes effect, Georgia state marijuana criminalization would remain on the books and enforceable in the city of Atlanta.

Earlier this year, Reed called marijuana a “gateway drug,” and has historically been critical of efforts to reform cannabis laws.

The official status of the decriminalization proposal is currently unknown.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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