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Hemp is legal in Georgia, causing confusion for law enforcement on how to regulate marijuana, which is still illegal in the state and looks the same.

Last night, leaders for the city of Clarkston passed an amendment to a local ordinance that will weaken penalties for simple possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. 

The amendment will redefine the charges for an ounce or less of marijuana to a maximum $75 fine and encourages Clarkston police officers to issue citations rather than arrest those in possession.  

"This particular ordinance came to our attention because we had various people in our Clarkston community who had been ticketed or cited," said Mario Williams, Public Safety Committee chairman for the Clarkson City Council. "They paid various fines. Some of them paid $200. Some of them paid up to $662."

Williams said he encourages other cities in Georgia to regulate simple possession under this finite area of the law because of the effects arresting for an ounce or less has on the community. 

"It is a proven fact that arresting people ... for simple possession of an once or less of marijuana has damaging effects long-term and short-term on their lives," he said. "And that's why we took a step forward and mitigated those effects today." 

Clarkston City Mayor Edward Terry said he was happy to announce that the amendment lowered the standard fine amount.

"In order to be a leader you have to go first, so Clarkston is going first," he said. "We will be the first state to set a minimum fine for possession of one ounce of marijuana."

Those in Clarkston are not the only ones in the state who want weaker charges for possession of marijuana.

Last year, members of Athens C.A.R.E. Project, a marijuana decriminalization advocacy organization affiliated with Georgia C.A.R.E., rallied outside of the Athens-Clarke County city hall and demanded that marijuana possession be treated as a civil offense rather than a criminal one. 

Under this finite area of the law, Athens-Clarke County could also make an ordinance that would set a standard fine and would encourage officers to issue citations rather than arrest for simple possession. 

Athens-Clarke County Attorney Bill Berryman has refused to comment on whether or not an ordinance such as Clarkston's could exist in Athens. 

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