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Georgia

  • by Tom McCain, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML October 15, 2018

    One Year Anniversary

    October 2nd, 2018 marked the one year anniversary of the unanimous passage of Atlanta City Ordinance 17-O-1152, which reduced the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana within the city limits of Atlanta to $75.00 and no jail time.  While this ordinance isn’t a true “decrim” bill, because those arrested are still being fingerprinted, it was a great step toward sensible marijuana legislation here in Georgia.

    Curiosity

    I wanted to know just what effect 17-O-1152 had on “simple possession” arrests in Atlanta.  After all, the ordinance didn’t make it “legal”, it just reduced the penalties.  It didn’t really even “decrim”.  APD officers are still free to arrest offenders and take them to jail.  The question burned in my mind; “Did they, or did they use 17-O-1152 as a justification to act on a moral conviction?“.  I knew where to find at least a clue to the answer.

    ACDC — No, Not the Band

    I have to hand it to the folks in the Records Department of the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC).  I’ve asked them for data several times and they are always quick to respond.  It seems I even have a nickname with them.  More on that later …. maybe.

    So last week I asked them to provide me with the following data, which they promptly did.  I’ve added their response in blue:

    a) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  2136

    b) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2016, and Oct 2, 2017, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  952

    c) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is an included charge:  683

    d) The number of bookings between Oct 3, 2017, and Oct 2, 2018, where possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is the ONLY charge:  252

    The Inference

    To sum it up, personal-use possession arrests fell from 3088 to 935 the first year after implementation of this ordinance.  When you do the math, that’s a 69.8% reduction.  So consider these factors:

    • 17-O-1152 was not directed to the Atlanta Police Department, rather to the Municipal Court.
    • APD officers can still arrest
    • Folks in the Metro live it like it’s legal anyway

    I searched through APD’s Standard Operating Procedures and didn’t find a mention of reducing the emphasis on simple possession arrests, so that doesn’t seem to be a factor.  Chief Shields may have issued an internal memo to that effect, but I’ve found no evidence of it, and I’m fairly certain that would have made its way into print somewhere.  She did say publicly during the hearings associated with 17-O-1152 that possession of small amounts was not high on the APD’s priority list, and that certainly has to be taken into consideration.

    So what can we deduce from this information?  I think it’s simply this; Nearly 70% of cops in Atlanta really don’t have a problem with NOT arresting marijuana users and now that they have an opportunity to exercise their moral discretion, they are doing so.  I think that’s significant.

    Too Optimistic?

    I’m optimistic by nature.  I’m always looking to what’s around the corner, to what the positive, rather than the negative outcome of a situation can be.  When this ordinance was passed many of you in the marijuana movement in Georgia cast aspersions on it.  You felt like it was a hollow gesture, with no substance, and that it wouldn’t make a difference.  Well, apparently you were wrong.  ‘Nuff said.

    So now I’m excited to see how this pans out in Savannah, South Fulton, Fulton County, Forest Park, and Kingsland as they reach the anniversary dates of their “decrim” ordinances.  We already know that Clarkston’s City Council and Mayor Ted Terry were the first to enact such an ordinance, and their program is working well.

    I’m also interested, as we all should be, in whether or not our State Legislators are listening …. or rather, who they are listening to.  This is The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association’s (GSA) position on marijuana  posted boldly on the front page of their website:

    “The position of the GSA concerning marijuana and medical cannabis is as follows:

    • OPPOSE the legalization of marijuana for all social, recreational or industrial purposes.
    • OPPOSE the cultivation of marijuana for all purposes.
    • SUPPORT the use of chemicals derived from cannabis for medical use for certain well defined serious health conditions.
    • OPPOSE the medical delivery or application of chemicals derived from cannabis plants through smoking.
    • OPPOSE legislative proposals where appropriate controls and security measures do not exist and where strict civil and criminal penalties are absent.

    The Executive Vice President of the GSA is a paid lobbyist.  Sheriffs and other law enforcement execs are always telling us, “We don’t make the laws, we just enforce them” and “If you don’t want us enforcing the law, get it changed.”  How are we supposed to do that when phrases like “Danger, danger” and “slippery slope” and “gateway drug” are constantly being whispered in our law-makers’ ears by a paid lobbyist?  Get out of our way and we WILL change the law.  We’re going to change it anyway.  It’s now a matter of when not if.  Your Rank and File support it.  I know.  I talk to them.

    I also find it telling that the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police doesn’t even mention it on their website.

    Tom McCain is the Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, fighting for the rights of Georgian cannabis consumers. You can visit their website at www.peachtreenorml.org, follow their work on Facebook and Twitter, and please make a contribution to support their work by clicking here. 

  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director September 26, 2018

    Following the lead of municipalities around the state, the City Council of Kingsland, Georgia, voted to approve a new ordinance to ease penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

    “I’m glad to see the Kingsland City Council unanimously approve this ordinance. They join Clarkston, Atlanta, Savannah, Forest Park, South Fulton and Fulton County in enacting sensible marijuana ordinances here in Georgia,” said Tom McCain, executive director of Peachtree NORML.  

    Citing concerns of racial profiling and the effects of the black market regarding teen access and use, Councilman Mike McClain was one of the most vocal proponents during Monday’s meeting to discuss the proposal.

    “There is a definite amount of racial profiling with the outdated law. We need to be on the right side of history, and I want to do the right thing,” said Mclain. “We are a small town, but we are not afraid of change when it goes to correctly police our community.”

    Read more here: https://www.allongeorgia.com/camden-local-news/kingsland-city-council-passes-relaxed-marijuana-rule/

    As state lawmakers around the country continue to drag their feet on marijuana law reforms, municipalities are taking matters into their own hands. As a result, more than 50 localities in a dozen states have adopted municipal ordinances to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

    “While they cannot change Georgia Law, they can indeed lower penalties for simple possession, and in doing so, send a message to the General Assembly that it needs to follow suit at the state-level,” added McCain.

    Click Here to Review NORML’s Decriminalization Report

    To learn more about marijuana law reforms in Georgia, follow Peachtree NORML on Facebook, and Twitter or check out their website!

    Ready to start a NORML chapter in your hometown? Click here to find out how!

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate July 8, 2016

    take_actionAdult use legalization initiatives in Arizona, California and Massachusetts are moving forward and Illinois has expanded its medical marijuana program. Keep reading to get the latest news and to find out how you can #TakeAction.

    Federal:
    On Wednesday, July 13th the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism is holding a hearing titled, “Researching the Potential Medical Benefits and Risks of Marijuana.” The Congressional hearing follows the recent introduction of House Bill 5549 and Senate Bill 3077 – which would expedite the federal review process for clinical protocols involving cannabis. Contact your federal lawmakers today to encourage them to support this common sense legislation. #TakeAction

    State:

    Arkansas: The Secretary of State’s office affirmed on Thursday that proponents, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, submitted sufficient signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November ballot. The 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act establishes a statewide program for the licensed production, analytic testing, and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Under the program, patients diagnosed by a physician with one of over 50 qualifying conditions may obtain cannabis from one of up to 38 licensed non-profit care centers. Qualified patients who do not have a center operating in their vicinity will be permitted to obtain a ‘hardship certificate’ in order to cultivate their own medicine at home. A similar initiative narrowly failed in the state in 2012, garnering over 48 percent of the vote.

    California: It was announced this week that the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) initiative will appear on the ballot as Proposition 64. This pending proposal, if approved by the voters, will permit adults to legally cultivate up to six marijuana plants and to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or eight grams of marijuana concentrates; and it will license the commercial cultivation and retail sales of marijuana products to adults. The measure prohibits localities from preventing responsible adults from possessing and cultivating cannabis for non-commercial purposes in the privacy of their own homes. The initiative language specifies that it is not intended to “repeal, affect, restrict, or preempt … laws pertaining to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.” You can read more about the proposal here.

    Georgia: Members of the Clarkston City Council voted this week in to approve an ordinance reducing the penalties for simple possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. The amendment makes simple possession a citable rather than an arrestable offense, punishable by a $75 fine. Mario Williams, Public Safety Committee chairman said, “It is a proven fact that arresting people … for simple possession of an ounce or less of marijuana has damaging effects long-term and short-term on their lives and that’s why we took a step forward and mitigated those effects today.”

    cannabis_pillsIllinois: Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation to expand and extend the state’s medical marijuana program to 2020. Legislation initiating the program was set to expire in 2018. Other changes to the program include adding post-traumatic stress and any terminal illness as qualifying medical conditions; extending the lifespan of state-issued registry cards from one year to three years in duration; and amending the requirement that physicians must explicitly recommend cannabis therapy. Instead, physicians will only be required to certify that there exists a bona fide doctor-patient relationship and that the patient possesses a qualifying, debilitating medical condition.

    These new changes in law took effect upon the Governor’s signature.

    Massachusetts: Proponents of a statewide marijuana legalization initiative effort moved one step closer this week to qualifying for the ballot in November. On Tuesday the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in more than 25,000 additional signatures from registered voters to the Secretary of State’s office. The state required an additional 10,792 signatures. Proponents this week also gained a legal victory from the state’s Supreme Court, which rejected a challenge that sought to remove the language from the state’s ballot.

    Pennsylvania: Members of the Harrisburg City Council this week voted unanimously in favor of a municipal ordinance to reduce penalties associated with the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure reclassifies cannabis possession as a summary offense punishable by a $5 fine. Pennsylvania’s capital city now joins Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in treating minor marijuana possession offenses similar to a traffic citation.

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate March 18, 2016

    map_leafWe’ve got a new federal bill to share with you this week along with several state legislative developments! Keep reading below to get the latest in marijuana law reform.

    Federal: Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced H.R. 4779, the CBD Oil Act of 2016 this week. This legislation would bar prosecution of individuals who use cannabidiol (CBD) oil for medical purposes as permitted by existing state law. Currently, 15 states have laws on the books to allow for the use of CBD products for medicinal purposes. Utah Governor Herbert has come out in support of the bill saying: “I support Rep. Chaffetz in his effort to alleviate the fear that many Utah families face over conflicting state and federal laws regarding cannabis oil. This legislation resolves that concern by respecting decisions made at the local level.”

    This legislation joins five other pending bills on the federal level to to permit and/or protect patient access to CBD. You can find the other pending legislation here.

    State:

    Alabama: Legislation is pending, House Bill 257, to amend state law so that first time offenders of one ounce or less of marijuana face a civil fine, no arrest and no criminal record. Current law defines the personal possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up of to $6,000.

    The legislation is currently pending before the House Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction

    Florida: Members of the Tampa city council voted 5 to 1 to amend local laws so that the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis within city limits is a non-arrestable, fine-only offense. First-time offenders face a $75 fine, while multiple offenders could face fines up to $450. By contrast, Florida law defines similar possession offenses as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

    Tampa’s pending law is similar to those recently enacted in a number of Florida counties, including Miami-Dade, West Palm Beach, and Volusia, as well as in several other metropolitan areas, such as Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

    Georgia: House lawmakers have resurrected language to expand the state’s medical cannabis law. Provisions previously contained in House Bill 722 have been attached to separate legislation, which is expected to be decided upon by a floor vote imminently. House lawmakers previously approved the measure last month, but Senate lawmakers were unwilling to take up the issue.

    As amended, the language expands the pool of patients eligible for certain medical marijuana products to include autism spectrum disorder, AIDS, a skin disease known as epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder, and protects patients against various discriminatory practices. #TakeAction

    Louisiana: Members of the New Orleans city council voted 7 to zero in favor of legislation permitting police to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders (defined as those who possess 14 grams or less), including repeat offenders. First-time violators are subject to a $40 fine while subsequent offenders may face fines of up to $100. Under state law, first-time possession offenders are subject to arrest and criminal prosecution (punishable by up to 15 days in jail) while repeat offenders face up to eight years in prison.

    Pennsylvania: After months of delay, House members approved legislation in a 149-3 vote on Wednesday to permit the production and use of medical marijuana products to qualified patients.The amended bill permits state officials to license marijuana cultivators and dispensaries to provide cannabis products to qualified patients who possess a recommendation from select physicians. The measure permits for the dispensing of herbal cannabis via vaporization, as well as the use of marijuana-infused extracts or oils.Because the House-amended legislation differs from the version initially approved by the Senate, the bill must be reapproved by the Senate or it will be negotiated in conference committee. #TakeAction

    Tennessee: Legislation is pending, HB 2310 and SB2321, to place a referendum before voters this November that would provide local law enforcement the option of citing rather than arresting adults who are caught in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. If the referendum is approved by voters, the option to arrest or cite minor offenders will be at the discretion of law enforcement.

    An analysis of 2012 marijuana possession arrests reports that police annually arrest over 19,000 Tennesseans for minor marijuana possession offenses. This is the 15th highest statewide tally in the nation. House Bill 2310 has been scheduled to be heard by members of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 22nd. #TakeAction

    Vermont: The House Judiciary Committee held it’s first walk-through this week related to S.241, the measure to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. Though the Senate has approved the measure, it’s expected to be a difficult road to win the House over. If you live in Vermont it’s important to contact your lawmakers and urge their support for this measure! #TakeAction

  • by Danielle Keane, NORML Associate February 26, 2016

    map_leafThe Vermont Senate approved legalization legislation this week! We also have several additional international updates from around the globe.

    International:

    Australia: Members of Australia’s House and Senate approved legislation this week to amend federal law to permit for the licensed production and distribution of cannabis to qualified patients. The move by Parliament follows recent efforts by several Australian territories to provide patients participating in clinical trials with access to the plant. Government officials will still need to develop and approve regulations for the new program before any production licenses can be issued.

    Canada: A federal court in Canada ruled this week that government officials cannot prohibit physician-authorized patients from growing their own supply of medical cannabis. The decision strikes down regulations enacted in 2013 that sought to take away patients’ longstanding authority to grow personal use quantities of cannabis.

    The judge’s ruling provides Parliament with six months to create new rules governing the regulation and distribution of medical cannabis in a manner that no longer requires patients to obtain medicine solely from federally-licensed, private third party providers. NORML Canada ‘s John Conroy served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, while NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano served as an expert witness and filed an affidavit in the case.

    Federal:

    In an interview from last year but only recently made public, former US Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that marijuana should “certainly be rescheduled”. He said, “You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate. So at a minimum, I think Congress needs to do that. Then I think we need to look at what happens in Colorado and what happens in Washington.”

    While NORML agrees that marijuana’s current classification in the Controlled Substances Act is inappropriate, NORML believes in descheduling cannabis, not rescheduling the plant. In an article published this week on Alternet, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano outlines why rescheduling cannabis does not go far enough and advocates for why it should be removed from the CSA altogether.

    State:

    greenhouseGeorgia: Legislation has been introduced, House Bill 1046, to amend state law so that minor marijuana offenders no longer face jail time. If approved, the legislation would make the first time possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses would result in a $500 fine for the second offense and $750 fine for the third offense. #TakeAction

    Hawaii: Pending legislation, Senate Bill 2787, to further encourage the state Department of Agriculture to license farmers to grow industrial hemp for “research and development purposes” was approved by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor this week. The committee approved an amended version of the legislation in a 4-0 vote. #TakeAction

    Pennsylvania: Members of the Harrisburg City Council have scheduled two separate public meetings to discuss a proposal to redefine municipal marijuana possession offenses from a misdemeanor to a citation. The meetings will be Thursday March 10 at the Harrisburg Area Community College midtown campus, Midtown 2, Room 206, at 1500 North Third Street and Thursday March 24 at the city’s public works building at 1820 Paxton Street. Both meetings will start at 5:30 p.m.

    Michigan: Newly introduced Senate legislation, SB 813, seeks to permit for the personal possession, cultivation, and retail sale of marijuana. Under the measure, adults would be permitted to possess and grow personal use quantities of the plant, and a system would be established for the retail production and sale of cannabis. Similar legislation introduced in the fall of 2015, HB 4877, remains pending in the Judiciary Committee. #TakeAction

    Vermont: Members of the Senate voted 17 to 12 on Thursday in favor of legislation, Senate Bill 241, to regulate the adult use, production, and sale of cannabis. The historic vote marks the first time that any legislative chamber in the state has ever approved legislation to permit the adult use and retail sale of cannabis.

    The Senate’s action was praised by Gov. Shumlin, who is backing the measure. The measure now will be debated by members of the Vermont House. #TakeAction

    marijuana_gavelWest Virginia: House Bill 4712 was introduced this week to depenalize marijuana possession offenses. The legislation removes marijuana from West Virginia’s list of schedule I drugs and removes all state criminal and civil penalties associated with the substance. Additionally, the proposal allows adults 21 and older to cultivate up to six cannabis plants, and to transfer up to one ounce of cannabis to another person age 21 or older without remuneration. #TakeAction

    In addition, senate legislation is pending to permit qualified patients access to medical cannabis. Senate Bill 640 permits qualified patients to engage in marijuana therapy and to cultivate (up to 12 mature plants) and to possess (up to six ounces) personal use amounts of cannabis. The measure also seeks to establish a permitting process for “registered compassion centers”, which will be licensed to produce and dispense medicinal cannabis to qualified patients. The bill is before the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. You can read the full text of this measure here. Companion legislation, House Bill 4680, has also been filed in the House of Representatives. #TakeAction

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