New pot ordinance will change role of police officers

Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead (Caitlyn Penter WTGS)

The role of police officers is changing in Statesboro when it comes to marijuana.

On Tuesday, city council passed a new pot ordinance. Starting Jan. 1, anyone facing a charge of simple marijuana possession, meaning an ounce or less, will get a fine and no jail time.

Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead spoke against the council.

"I didn't ask them to do that if that makes sense, I spoke against them," said Broadhead.

He said some people carrying around an ounce aren't just doing it for personal use.

"For some people who are regular users, having an ounce, probably a pretty regular thing to do. For other people, an ounce is a significant amount of marijuana" said Broadhead.

That's why, he said he thinks his officers deserve more discretion when dealing with any amount of marijuana.

"I believe that the police officer who is making the contact, who's finding the marijuana, they're in the best position to understand the context," said Broadhead.

And he said there's a loophole to the law.

"Officers can charge them in the state court as opposed to municipal court," said Broadhead. You can still be arrested and jailed for simple possession under state law.

Broadhead said his officers deal with marijuana calls daily.

"In a university town, marijuana is almost ubiquitous," he said.

When Georgia Southern students were asked what they think about it, two students said they don't use drugs but they support the change.

"I have a lot of friends that do, and I think that it will make them a lot safer," said Shay Paulk. Her friend Virginia agreed.

"It's more space for actual criminals to get locked away instead of people that are just doing weed," said Virginia Tinley.

Under the new ordinance, you can't be fined more than $500. If you can't pay the fine, the court can give community service in its place.

Broadhead said he and his officers will train throughout the month to adapt to the new ordinance. His department will fully carry out the ordinance when it takes effect in January.


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