Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is stepping up efforts to help keep residents’ records of minor marijuana possession offenses from following them for the rest of their lives, especially when it comes to employment.
“The fact remains that communities of color are disproportionately affected by the lingering stigma of victimless, minor offenses — even long after the accused have paid their debts,” she said in a news release. “This outmoded practice deprives our communities and workforce of brilliant and promising minds, all because of an unfair justice system that can and will be course-corrected.”
Dec. 16, Bottoms issued an administrative order to establish a process to restrict the records of offenses for possession of less than once ounce of marijuana or offenses related to the repealed subsection six of the city’s disorderly conduct ordinance (City Code Section 106-81(6))—commonly known as “DC-(6). The order requires the chief operating officer to coordinate with the city attorney, the city solicitor and the Atlanta Municipal Court chief judge to establish and promulgate the process by no later than Feb. 1.
In 2007, Ordinance 07-O-0489 repealed the DC-(6) subsection, which had previously made it unlawful for any person within the corporate limits of the city to: “(b)e in or about any place where gaming or the illegal sale or possession of alcoholic beverages or narcotics or dangerous drugs is practiced, allowed or tolerated, for the purpose of or intent to engage in gaming or the purchase, use, possession or consumption of such illegal drugs, narcotics or alcoholic beverages. …”
The municipal court has jurisdiction to dispose of cases where an individual is charged with the state crime of possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. The process established with Bottoms’ order would restrict the records of these offenses from public view and would only be accessible to law enforcement for criminal justice purposes.
According to the release, several studies have shown a direct correlation between the expungement of marijuana records and an increase in wages.
Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, praised Bottoms’ decision.
“We’d like to thank Mayor Bottoms for her courage and foresight in restricting these records,” Young said in a news release. “Some of the worst racial disparities in law enforcement show up in marijuana charges. Mayor Bottoms’ action is consistent with Atlanta’s decision to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. We look forward to a day when no one faces criminal charges because of marijuana use.”