Savannah Could Follow Atlanta On Marijuana Reform

Georgia is not known for being a marijuana friendly state. Cannabis is not completely illegal in the Peach state; eligible patients are allowed to have a very low percentage of THC in the form of cannabis oil. Unfortunately, this is too low to have any significant benefits and most patients are best off moving to other states if that happen to have a serious condition, which they often do. THC is the psychoactive form of marijuana which gives off most of the effects. Along with a small amount of THC, the state also allows the use of CBD oil which has proven to be effective in the treatment of seizure related illnesses. For those who don’t fall under Georgia’s medical CBD law, possession of less than 1 ounce of cannabis for personal use is a misdemeanor. It’s punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and/or 12 months of incarceration. Possession of more than one ounce of weed is a felony in Georgia. The sentence is between one to ten years in prison. It is important to understand that weed is still a class A drug at the federal level and with the associated prison sentences. Though it rarely happens, it is established that in the event of a conflict between state law and federal law, federal law will prevail.

A Lighter Marijuana Stance

However, the stiff approach to weed might be lessening in Georgia. In Atlanta, a measure was recently signed into law that effectively decriminalizes weed. Now, a member of Savannah’s City Council wants the state’s fifth-largest city to join the capital in significantly lowering cannabis penalties. This is the first step in marijuana legalization. It is highly possible that within 10 years the majority of states will have legalized recreational marijuana. All states seem to be inching closer, either by politicians who need more votes or public citizens pushing votes and ballots on the issue. The people want marijuana legalization, that much is certain. Alderman Van Johnson of the Savannah city council recently announced that he intends to push his colleagues to pass a measure eliminating the threat of incarceration for possessing up to one ounce of marijuana, and reduce the punishment from the current $1,000 fine to just $150. And he intends to do it within the next 45 days.

Johnson stated: “My proposal would directly address glaring demographic disparities in arrest rates for this offense, due to disproportionate minority contact”. His disparity relates to the disproportionate amount of arrests on African Americans who have long been targeted for using the plant. He states that 20% of the fines collected under the proposed ordinance is to go toward drug treatment funding. This marks a radical difference in the approach to marijuana treatment and sentencing. It is effectively a complete turnaround in the way marijuana was perceived, traditionally a dirty drug to be reviled and is quickly been seen for what it is; A life generating plant with the awesome capacity to treat the most malignant of diseases with practically zero side effects. However, there is a long way to go. Even if the proposal of Johnsons actually comes into force, state laws criminalizing cannabis will still remain in effect in the city, similar to Atlanta.

It’s Just a Plant

The stance on marijuana is in many ways quite bizarre. There are reams of pages on the appropriate production, cultivation and distribution of marijuana in states where marijuana is legal. And in states where marijuana is illegal there are manner of differentiations on the penalties for certain crimes associated with marijuana. In Georgia, there are different sentencing guidelines for personal use, for intent to distribute, for sale or delivery, for cultivation, for hash and concentrates, for paraphernalia, for forfeiture and on and on and on. But the only reason that all these rules are necessary, along with all the associated administrative bodies, group meetings, and all of the hype in general, is because the plant has been, for some reason, criminalized in the first place. If marijuana was simply legal it would mean less resources in terms of police force, reduced crime, reduced visits to the doctors, reduced disease, reduced prison sentences, less administrative burden in terms of drafting highly unnecessary rules and procedures, and, according to studies, less road accidents road fatalities and opioid addiction. Instead we have an artificially created situation where marijuana is an illegal drug and as such we need reams of paperwork and tones of resources towards managing a concept which we have put on a plant. We are now left with recreational marijuana, medical marijuana, black market marijuana and each has to be classed distinctly with its own set of guidelines. Even though they are all, essentially, the same thing. All that is really required is some light touch regulation, good independent testing facilities to eliminate bad quality marijuana and widespread legalization. All of the rest is unnecessary and very expensive in many ways, but slowly but surely the road is being paved for recreational marijuana for all in the USA.