Coughlin said more lenient penalties for possession of marijuana could result in a decrease in opioid use in Johns Creek.

“Opioid abuse is high in Johns Creek,” he said. “When you don’t go to jail (for marijuana), people will substitute it as an alternative for pain relief.”

Councilwoman Erin Elwood foresees decriminalization lowering the number of interactions between residents and police officers.

“I think this is a time when we’re all looking at criminal justice and policing in terms of how can we do better,” Elwood said. The punishment for possession of marijuana is disproportionate for people of color compared to others, she added.

Other municipalities have begun to change their laws concerning small amounts of marijuana. Clarkston was the first Georgia city to pass a similar ordinance in 2016. Doraville passed a new ordinance earlier in August. Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta-Richmond County and Macon-Bibb County are among the large local governments that also have passed local decriminalization ordinances.


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