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Reduced pot penalty approved for Georgia beach community

September 5, 2021 GMT

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Possessing a small amount of marijuana is no longer a crime in the coastal city that’s home to Georgia’s largest public beach.

The city council on Tybee Island recently approved an ordinance that imposes a civil fine of $150 for possession an ounce or less of marijuana. Before the change, it was a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

Tybee Island joins at least a dozen other Georgia cities and counties — including Atlanta and Savannah — that have similarly rolled back pot penalties when dealing with minor amounts, the Savannah Morning News reported.

“I can’t speak highly enough about reducing penalties for marijuana,” said Tybee Island Councilman Monty Parks. “One of the key parts about this ordinance is that we are not just reducing the fine, we are reducing it from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty.”

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The ordinance only decriminalizes minor marijuana possession if there are no related charges. Anyone found with the drug while being charged with driving under the influence, for example, would still face a misdemeanor marijuana charge.

The new possession law also requires Tybee Island officials in six months to make a recommendation on expunging the criminal records of those convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession in the past. Officials say Tybee Island has about 250 marijuana-related offenses on its books from the past four years.