Today’s Midtown Patch Question of the Day takes a look at the idea of legalizing marijuana in Georgia. On Monday, a new push to reform Georgia’s marijuana (Cannabis) laws will kick off as lawmakers consider criminal justice reform measures.
The Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform & Education or Ga. C.A.R.E. Project, will host a press conference at the Georgia state capitol Monday at 11 a.m. to announce the campaign’s mission. A project of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance, founders James Bell and Ron Williams have supported and advocated for law reform for 25 years.
Bell said this is the first time in the 25 years Georgia has considered law reform legislation and the time is right to focus on the state’s antiquated marijuana laws.
“We applaud Gov. Nathan Deal and the legislature for their courageous efforts to reform ineffective and costly laws we can no longer afford to sustain”, Bell said. In a news release. “Decades of “get tough on drugs” legislation has cost taxpayer billions and has done little to solve real crime problems.”
The Georgia C.A.R.E. Project’s agenda will focus on a four point plan to;
1. Establish a special study committee to focus specifically on marijuana laws;
2. Reschedule the classification of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II or lower;
3. Modernize Georgia’s medical marijuana access laws to allow for legal medical marijuana by doctor prescription or recommendation;
4. Decriminalize a personal use amount to eliminate prosecution and incarceration;
Ron Williams, a reform activist, said 18 states have allowed medical marijuana and two state have now legalized personal use amounts.
“Those states have led the way to show that we can decriminalize and medicalize marijuana and bring this substance under regulation and control without affecting public safety and save taxpayers dollars. It’s time to focus on this issue.”
The campaign has set up an educational website and Facebook page to connect with the public, media and lawmakers.
Earlier this month, a crowd of hundreds gathered to light up joints under the Space Needle in Seattle as recreational marijuana use officially became legal in the state of Washington.
A similar scene is likely to unfold on the streets of Denver in a couple of weeks as Colorado’s marijuana legalization law goes into effect.
In Washington, it is now legal for people to possess up to one ounce of the drug, which is illegal in most states, including Georgia. While the new state law in Washington doesn’t usurp federal laws that criminalize marijuana use, local cops are no longer going to give people age 21 and up a hard time for lighting up a joint in the privacy of their own homes. The public display at the Space Needle technically remains illegal, but police in that state decided to let it fly on the morning pot smoking became legal there.
Cops in Washington seem to be taking a rather nonchalant approach to the new state rules, too. The Seattle Police Department has issued some interesting directives to its officers.
Police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee is quoted on the Huffington Post as saying, "The police department believes that, under state law, you may responsibly get baked, order some pizzas and enjoy a `Lord of the Rings' marathon in the privacy of your own home, if you want to."
He also quoted the cult classic film "The Big Lebowski": “The Dude abides, and says `take it inside!' "
Colorado’s law goes into effect on Jan. 5. Washington state, the Post says, anticipates the new law will bring millions of dollars into the state’s coffers as regulations begin to go into place.
While lighting up a joint at home – or in public – remains illegal in Georgia, we’d like to hear your thoughts on the issue Midtown. Do you think our state should look at decriminalization? Should the federal government review its own laws? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
About this column: The Midtown Patch Question of the Day is an occasional column that features local, state or national news that we want to get Midtown Patch reader's take on.