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State

Council reduces fines for possessing small amounts of marijuana in city

DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council has reduced the fine for people found in possession of small amounts of marijuana in the city.

Starting Jan. 24, if a person is caught with 2.5 grams – less than one-tenth of an ounce – or less of marijuana, they can choose to “mail-in” a $350 fine. If a person decides to go to court and is found guilty, they would be fined $750, plus court fees.

The City Council approved the measure, 7-0, at their Monday night meeting. Because they waived a second reading, the vote was final action. Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker was not present and did not vote.

City and police officials have touted this option as being a more efficient use of the legal system and the police department. Police officers can use their discretion on whether to write someone a ticket for marijuana possession under the city ordinance or to arrest them.

Police Chief Gene Lowery previously described an amount of marijuana less than 2.5 grams as being for personal use. A person found to be carrying more than that amount would be charged under the regular state statutes.

The only opposition to the proposal came from Laura Miller, a prevention specialist with DeKalb County Partnership for a Safe Active and Family Environment. Miller said she agreed with the concept of the idea, but thought the fine was too low.

Miller said $350 fine was equivalent to a minor getting caught with alcohol, which is $200 plus court fees. Making them equivalent in penalties would give young people the idea that they are similar when in fact they aren’t, Miller said.

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