MACON, Ga. — A few weeks ago, Bibb County commissioners Al Tillman and Virgil Watkins proposed a bill that would reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana under one ounce to a fine of up to $75 and no jail time.
On Tuesday, people from the county on both sides of the issue voiced their opinions on the proposed ordinance. Those opposed worried that a lighter punishment could mean more crime.
"If you're committing one kind of crime, you might be subject to commit worse crimes," said Joe Powell.
Another man, Ken Smith, believed that concerns over whether enforcing the current law on non-violent offenders could ruin lives were misplaced.
"We're talking about this is going to mar them for life, what's going to mar them for life is that we don't have standards that we uphold," Smith said.
They were the only dissenters as the bill had overwhelming support from everyone else that spoke at the podium. Community organizations, including the NAACP, the National Action Network and Reform Georgia all showed support for the proposed bill.
Law enforcement also showed their support for the bill, explaining that minor marijuana offenses are already deemed as less of a hassle to public safety.
"It has been going on citation rather than being arrested and going to municipal court," said solicitor general Rebecca Grist.
Sheriff David Davis said deputies will still use their discretion when making arrests and district attorney David Cooke said keeping non-violent offenders out of jail helps society at large in the long run.
"Once you set foot in the jail, you're much more likely to come back to jail. Once you've set foot in the courtroom, you're much more likely to end up in the courtroom and if we can attack this on the front end, we're going to not only help those individuals help their careers and education down the line when they might be acting with more sense," Cooke said.
Commissioners are split down the middle when it comes to the bill. Four are for it and four are against it. Bert Bivins is the likely deciding vote and while he was at the meeting for a moment, he did leave before it ended.
Commissioner Al Tillman said the commissioners will vote on the ordinance change next Tuesday, May 21st.