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ACLU of Georgia Takes A Case For Peachtree NORML

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML December 21, 2017

    18402697_1258339267617410_3397086841457512968_nBackground

    In June of 2016 members of Peachtree NORML began a practice of visiting official law enforcement Facebook pages when marijuana bust “brag” posts were put up. We began expressing our opinions on those posts. Those opinions were often deleted from these official pages and the citizens making them were blocked from commenting. These actions are an abridgment of a citizen’s First Amendment Right to criticize a governmental official or entity. Sheriff Joey Terrell of Habersham County, Georgia was one of the officials who deleted dissenting comments. We decided to contact the ACLU, and they decided to take up our case for us.

    The ACLU sent a letter to Sheriff Terrell, demanding that he cease the practice of deleting dissenting comments and restore commenting capabilities to those persons who had been blocked from the page. Initially, Hunt & Taylor Law Group replied to the letter, stating the following:

    Mr. Young:

    We are the county attorneys for Habersham County, Georgia. While we technically do not represent the Sheriff as he is an elected official and we are retained to represent the Board of Commissioners and various county departments that are not headed by elected officials, we do, on occasion, respond to requests from those elected officials of the County who seek advice. In that regard, the Sheriff shared with us your letter regarding his FaceBook page. He was concerned that it was his personal FaceBook account and contained information that he wanted to share about the Sheriff’s office. I explained to him that as the elected sheriff of Habersham County, he was the “face” of the department – even on his personal FaceBook page. He understands now that he cannot censor comments even on his account. He has advised me that he will make changes to his account and no longer receive any kind of comments but rather use it as an “announcement page”. I personally know very little about FaceBook and do not know exactly how that will be accomplished. My understanding is that his account will no longer be interactive as he is concerned about responses that will not be appropriate – such as bad language. He will now only post news items.

    Donnie Hunt
    County Attorney
    Habersham County, Georgia

     

    I personally felt Sheriff Terrell was taking the coward’s way out but to his credit, so far, he has acquiesced to our demands, restored the ability to comment to those who were blocked, and is still allowing comment. His post concerning the matter has a bit of a “whine” to it, though, and I’ll let you the reader determine if the Sheriff’s “personal” page is really personal, since it is riddled with the trappings of his Office.

    Oaths

    Elected officials in Georgia are required to swear several Oaths before taking office. Among them is an Oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. They don’t get to pick and choose which parts of it they will uphold. They are answerable to US, and we need to hold their feet to the fire when they abridge our rights.

    I hope this sends a clear message to ALL elected officials in Georgia regarding deleting dissenting comments from their Facebook pages. If it doesn’t, and they persist, we’re prepared to take this to the Federal Courts.

    Thank Yous

    I want to thank Sean Young, ACLU GA’s Legal Director, Fallon Traylor (who was the Policy Advocate when this all got started), and Chris Bruce, the Policy Counsel, who pointed me in the right direction to make this happen.

    I also want to thank all the members of Peachtree NORML who took screenshots and shared them with me. Without them, this couldn’t have happened. Thank you for standing up!!

    Much respect for all of you.

    Tom McCain is an Air Force Veteran, retired law enforcement officer, former Chief Deputy of Johnson County, and the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML. You can find out more at http://www.peachtreenorml.org/ and follow their work on Facebook and Twitter. Peachtree NORML is supported by grassroots contributions and your support means a lot – consider making a donation now

    9 responses to “ACLU of Georgia Takes A Case For Peachtree NORML”

    1. Tom McCain says:

      If they’re going to enforce the law, they need to obey the law.

    2. Julian says:

      Anyone who thinks the first amendment isn’t critical to our marijuana legalization movement should follow this case:

      https://www.pacermonitor.com/public/case/22047318/Washington_et_al_v_Sessions_et_al

      Sessions just filed for an extension of time over the Plaintiff’s Motion to deny his Motion to Dismiss. Sessions doesn’t want to argue the merits of the CSAct or Alexis Bortell’s 1st amendment rights because he knows he can’t win. If this case makes it to the Supreme Court Justice Kennedy has a soft spot for the 1st amendment. The entire scheduling and legalization of marijuana is in question.

      Furthermore, the supremacy clause was already shot down in a Massachusetts SJCourt earlier this year in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing. Even though we are still waiting on Vermont, New Jersey or Rhode Island to pass the first legislatively enacted marijuana law since Jefferson required us to grow hemp… (still don’t know why THAT isn’t legislatively enacted evidence in court…) it appears that Federal Judges already recognize the legislatively enacted amendments to state mj laws. In other words, the laws or amendments prohibitionist state Reps were using to delay and water down voter-initiated legalization was considered by a Federal SJCourt as legislative enacted legislation.

      Without the Supremacy Clause as a threat, the pressure is on in the Washington v Sessions case to reveal a blatant violation of 11-year-old Alexis Bortell’s First Amendment rights by denying her redress of grievances or travel to NORML Lobby Day with her mmj that has stopped her seizures for more than 360 consecutive days.

    3. Julian says:

      I remember trying this 1st and 5th amendment tactic with my state Rep Jason Isaac, R-TX about 4 years ago, explaining to him that “epileptic patients can’t make it in and out of this State Capitol within the two hours that inhaled cannabis takes effect to lobby your office. Hell, I consider myself a healthy man and I cant get in and out of this building after visiting my state Rep and Senator in two hours. Ingested concentrates last longer but are Texas state felony posessions. Lobbying by epileptic patients would not only be considered self incrimination with their only effective medicine, but without legal mj were asking for patient advocates to have seizures in the state capitol. If that’s not a violation of the 1st and 5th amendments I don’t know what is.”

      What I hadn’t considered, because I didn’t have the money, was to file an injunction in Federal Court. For that we can thank Marvin Washington and NORML Founder and Legal Councel Keith Stroup. Along with a US Congressman, Stroup invited Alexis to NORML Lobby Day. And I can’t think of a more effective voice to represent our movement on the witness stand and defend our 1st and 5th amendment freedoms then 11-year-old Alexis Bortell.

    4. for good move on norml part in georgia whats crazy is most people dont evon no there first amendment rights the sheriff should kno but they like to put there selfs above the law and peoples rights and there the law thank u norml for standin up for are rights again

    5. Eric R. Johnson says:

      He claims he doesn’t have any first amendment rights… but he does. Nobody is keeping him from posting the original bragging posts. But since he used his first amendment right to do so, all he has to do is “put up with,” those who disagree. Awww.

      But he also doesn’t have to be the elected face of a county Sheriff’s department. Step back to lower position, and he can put up the bragging posts and eliminate dissent to his herts desire.

      It’s is a new day for upper echelon police and drug laws under with internet. The TV stations -all- took his bragging press conference, showed the drugs and the money on the customary long table while the estimate the “street value,” was parroted by the reporters (all, including the newspapers’) without question.

      That a backyard discussion could happen over any fence in that county with “unapproved,” and un-sanitized factoids is simply unacceptable to these types of law enforcement heads.

      The internet poses problems never before considered, as a well-written but damning and castigating comment against the Sheriff’s bragging cannot be paired easily with a picture of a “long haired, maggot-infested, dope smoking FM type,” (hat tip Rush Limbaugh) which so often happens when a TV reporter looks for opposition commentary.

      Remember the reporters have to maintain a cordial relationship with the police agencies to get their work done. Facebook Sheriff’s must do the same with the public, or step down.

    6. Evening Bud says:

      My oh my how those Southern sheriffs do whine. Nothing more pathetic than a bully who whines. “I am the ‘face’ and . . . and . . . waaaahhhhh . . . I have no rights . . . waaaaahhhhh.”

      I’m positive the good sheriff doesn’t give a crap about anybody’s else’s first amendment rights, especially when he’s busting them.

    7. David K. M. Klaus says:

      As a private individual, outside of his governmental duties, Mr. Terrell has the same first amendment rights as any other citizen, including the authority to regulate his private page.

      A more fair solution would be for him to shift his department bragging to a department page, which would still have to be open to citizen comment. Thereby he would still have the control over his personal page that he should like any other citizen.

      Was that even suggested?

    8. David says:

      I know if everyone would make a stand with respect even though we’re not getting the same they can’t shut us out forever the crime rate would go down you get a person drunk it’s trouble they don’t want to stay put but smoke some pot all you want to do is relax laugh eat what’s the harm in that and it’s a good medication and it’s a herb not a narcotic there is no danger to your self are anyone else ….. Thank you

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