Pubdate: Wed, 14 Apr 2010
Source: Creative Loafing Atlanta (GA)
Copyright: 2010, Creative Loafing
Author: Scott Henry


"We believe licensed physicians are competent to
employ marijuana, and patients have a right to
obtain marijuana legally, under medical supervision, from a regulated

The above quote, taken from a 1982 letter to the
editor published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association and written by then-freshman
Congressman Newt Gingrich, is the closest Georgia
has ever gotten to decriminalizing the doobie.

The fact that NORML, the nonprofit lobbying
organization working to legalize marijuana,
hadn't been active in Georgia for several years
(before the state chapter was reopened last year)
should tell you something about the futility of the cause.

"Right now, with the Republicans in charge, the
outlook isn't good for legalization," says
Gwinnett County defense attorney David Clark, who
serves as executive director of Georgia NORML.
"But maybe we could see an effort to allow medical marijuana."

Of course, that could still put Georgia behind
Alabama. Last week, an Alabama House committee
passed a bill that would legalize possession of
small amounts of weed for medical purposes.

Still, as far as weed-unfriendly places go, the
Peach State is around the middle of the pack,
Clark says =AD worse than some, better than others.
And metro Atlanta is actually fairly lenient when
it comes to its drug courts. Davis says a nolo
contendre plea on first-time possession of less
than an ounce typically results in a slap on the
wrist, with the accused toker avoiding a drug
treatment program, keeping his driver's license
and escaping with a clean record after a brief probation.

On the down side, there's no minimum quantity you
need to be carrying to get busted; under Georgia
law, even a bit of shake or some pipe residue is illegal.

And once you head south an hour, you better be clean.

"The penalties vary widely depending on where you
are in Georgia," Davis says. "If you get caught
with more than an ounce in South Georgia, you're
probably looking at jail time and a heavy fine
because many counties treat drug busts as a way to generate revenue."

Last year, he says, Georgia sent about 16,000
people to jail for possessing or selling pot. Not
all of those cases were college kids caught with
a roach. After all, Atlanta is one of the
country's major distribution hubs, with countless
drug mules driving our interstates.

While only about a third of his clients charged
with marijuana possession are female, Davis
doesn't believe that means girls smoke less than
guys =AD or even that they get caught less.

"Unfortunately, it's common for cops to try to
intimidate girls into telling who sold them the
pot," he says. "And it often works, so fewer
girls end up getting arrested. But marijuana is enjoyed equally by both sexe
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