I am a pretty quintessential middle-class American woman. My ancestry
is Danish and English-maybe some Scottish somewhere. I'm just enough
of a WASP to have some ancestors who fought in the Revolution. But I
certainly didn't feel superior to the blue-collar Italian and Irish
kids in the lower-middle-class neighborhood where I grew up - in fact,
I would have laughed at the notion that, merely as white people, any
of us were privileged. I reserved that term for the rich kids living
in big houses across town. In my book, privilege meant you had a lot
more than my family had.
[continues 207 words]
You might want to think twice before you light up that joint in
Piedmont Park or anywhere else in the city of Atlanta.
The drug is still illegal, despite Monday's move by the Atlanta City
Council to eliminate jail time and reduce the penalty for possession
of small amounts of marijuana, Atlanta Police Chief Erica Shields said
In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Shields said
some media and advocates of cannabis decriminalization are confusing
the public by suggesting the Council's action gives Atlanta residents
permission to use pot without consequence.
[continues 57 words]
The Atlanta City Council on Monday unanimously passed legislation
eliminating jail time and reducing penalties on possession of small
amounts of marijuana, but not before mayoral candidates got into
heated debates and backers of the bill became rowdy.
The legislation, which was resurrected in September after spending
months in committees because of concerns it might send the wrong
message, brings Atlanta closer to other large cities across the nation
that are either lessening penalties on pot or decriminalizing it
altogether as Americans' opinions on the drug evolve.
It will reduce the financial penalty for possession of one ounce or
less from up to $1,000 to a maximum of $75. Jail time, currently six
months for possession, would be eliminated for an ounce or less.
Georgia law enforcement agencies lost access to millions of dollars in
potential funding when the U.S. Department of Justice in 2015 all but
shut down a practice criticized as encouraging policing for profit.
Now state law enforcement leaders are welcoming U.S. Attorney General
Jeff Sessions' Wednesday announcement that the department is
reinstating "adoptive forfeiture." Effective immediately, the federal
government will help state and local police agencies keep cash or
other assets they have seized on suspicion of ties to state crimes.
Agencies can keep such property permanently even if no one is ever
New safeguards will help prevent abuses, the department said in a
directive to U.S. attorneys and other Justice Department officials
announcing the new policy.
A federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week against a south Georgia
sheriff offers new details of the bizarre school-wide search of
hundreds of students where deputies allegedly touched girls' breasts,
vaginal areas and groped boys in their groins.
One of the nine Worth County High School students who filed the
lawsuit, identified as K.P., told the AJC that the April 14 search was
"very, very scary." She said the incident was stuck in her memory and
it colored the rest of her senior year.
The day of the search, she said, students didn't know what was
happening when an announcement was made early in the day that the
school was on lock-down.
Even as Gov. Nathan Deal was signing the latest batch of state laws
designed to keep lower-level offenders out of prison, the Trump
administration was preparing a crackdown seeking the toughest possible
charges against offenders convicted of nonviolent drug violations.
The U.S. Justice Department released directives Friday that call for
more mandatory minimum sentences and direct prosecutors to pursue the
strictest punishments available. It was a sweeping shift in criminal
justice policy, reversing Obama-era policies to reduce penalties for
some nonviolent offenses.
[continues 52 words]
The Atlanta City Council is considering making the penalty for getting
caught with pot similar to finding a parking ticket flapping on your
The effort is based on the idea that black residents are
overwhelmingly the target of marijuana enforcement in the city,
staining them with jail time, fines and arrest records that follow
them in life.
The effort was put forward by Councilman Kwanza Hall, a mayoral
candidate who has tried to carve out his place in the crowded mayor's
race by pushing to do away with some quality-of-life offenses such as
spitting, jay walking, idling and loitering - things one often does
while smoking weed.
Atlanta wants to join a growing number of U.S. cities that are
lowering the penalties for small amounts of marijuana use.
But leaders learned last week that getting there won't be
The City Council sent legislation meant to lower fines and eliminate
jail time for possession of an ounce or less of pot back to a
committee last week after members had a host of questions. Chief among
their concerns was whether there was buy-in from the Atlanta Police
Department and city courts, two groups whose backing would be crucial
to making such a plan work. Elected officials also fear that being too
lenient would take away the deterrent of marijuana use.
[continues 61 words]
After more than 90 minutes of debate and no consensus, the Atlanta
City Council on Monday put off a vote on a measure that would have
eliminated jail time for those caught with small quantities of marijuana.
Advocates of the Atlanta legislation said the move is necessary to
address the disproportionate number of black Americans incarcerated
because of pot possession.
The proposal, which also would reduce the fine for possession of an
ounce or less to a maximum of $75, mirrors actions taken in cities
across the nation, including Dallas, Kansas City and St. Louis. In
DeKalb County, Clarkson also has reduced penalties.
[continues 67 words]
Lawmakers appear to have reached a compromise Thursday that would
expand Georgia's medical marijuana law.
The agreement over Senate Bill 16 would add six illnesses and
conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Georgia to
include Alzheimer's disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa,
peripheral neuropathy and Tourette's syndrome. It would additionally
allow use for patients in hospice care, according to both state Sen.
Ben Watson, R-Savannah, and state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.
It would also keep the maximum allowable THC percentage in the form of
cannabis oil allowed here at 5 percent.
Janea Cox, her husband Brian, their 7-year-old daughter Haleigh and
their chocolate Lab Kala left their Forsyth home in December 2016 for
their semi-annual trip to Colorado. They flew into Denver and made
their way toward Colorado Springs in a rental car, squeezing the three
of them, a wheelchair and the dog into the small, four-door sedan. A
handicap-equipped van would have been better, but the economy ride was
what they could afford.
The family checked into a budget hotel and went to sleep; not that
they ever sleep well, or for very long. Young Haleigh was up through
the night, as usual. She has epilepsy so severe she requires constant
oversight. For most of her life, her young brain hasn't been
seizure-free long enough to develop normally. So she gets around in a
wheelchair, receives nourishment through a feeding tube and is barely
able to communicate. Haleigh is a prisoner in her own body.
She also has type one diabetes. Kala is a service dog specially
trained to check blood sugar levels by smell and alert handlers of
spikes - to do what Haleigh cannot do for herself, to speak out when
she needs help.
Jim "J-Bo" Wages and his wife, Lisa, made the decision a few years ago
to wean their daughter off of pharmaceutical drugs, becoming one of
the first families in 2015 to qualify for Georgia's then-new medical
Since then, they've seen Sydney blossom. She's eating more, has better
awareness of what is going on around her. Last week, they caught her
laughing as her older sister tickled her stomach before bedtime - a
reaction neither had seen in years.
The 13-year-old, who has autism and suffers from intractable seizures,
has benefited from the state's medical marijuana law, her parents
said. But they are afraid others won't.
A key state House committee passed legislation Wednesday that would expand
the list of medical conditions that can be treated with cannabis oil.
House Bill 722 would add HIV/AIDS, epidermolysis bullosa, post-traumatic
stress disorder, Tourette's syndrome and other disorders and illnesses to
the list of qualifying medical conditions for the state's cannabis oil
Lawmakers passed legislation last year that legalized cannabis oil for the
treatment of eight disorders.
"We're going to improve the lives of a significant amount of Georgians by
the passing of this bill," said bill sponsor Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.
"Not as many as I would've liked."
[continues 305 words]
The effort to expand Georgia's medical marijuana law continued Friday to
receive pointed criticism, as supporters struggle to gain support from the
state's law enforcement community.
Chuck Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of
Georgia, testified during a brief hearing before the House Judiciary
Non-Civil Committee that he believes House Bill 722 would too broad and,
in some spots, contradictory toward its goal of allowing Georgia
manufacturers to grow and cultivate medical marijuana in-state under
[continues 169 words]
A Crawford County man was shot and killed Monday after he allegedly
fired a shotgun at police officers who were serving a search warrant
in a drug case.
About eight officers working with the Peach County Drug Task Force
were dressed in protective gear as they went to the home of Rainer
Tyler Smith, 31, at 6750 Ga. 42 South shortly after 2 a.m., said J.T.
Ricketson, of the GBI.
"No one came to the door, so they made entry, and as soon as they made
it inside, one of the occupants started shooting," said Ricketson,
special agent in charge of the GBI's Perry office.
[continues 688 words]
The debate over whether Georgia will become a safer space for
marijuana, in medicinal or any other form, is poised to pick up speed
next year. But only if the incoming Donald Trump administration
doesn't shut it down.
And with the nomination of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama as the
nation's next U.S. attorney general, that has become a distinct
On the same November day that voters handed the New York businessman
the keys to the White House, four states - California, Maine,
Massachusetts, and Nevada - approved the adult use of marijuana for
Three more - Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota - passed ballot
initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana derivatives for
A decade ago, a little old lady living behind burglar bars in a rough
Atlanta neighborhood died in a fusillade of bullets in her own living
room. The invaders were cops on an illegal raid searching for drugs
that never existed.
A week after the Nov. 21, 2006, killing of 92-year-old Kathryn
Johnston, then-Mayor Shirley Franklin faced an angry crowd at Lindsay
Street Baptist Church on the near West Side. For four hours, residents
harangued officials with stories about cops kicking in doors with
unsigned warrants or teens getting slammed to the pavement simply for
[continues 77 words]
FLOWERY BRANCH - The NFLPA is not leaving any stones unturned when
trying to look out for the wellness of its membership, even if the
latest stone is currently banned.
The union, which represents the players in the NFL, is actively
looking at marijuana as a pain-management tool and plans to form a
committee to study the benefits of the drug.
Marijuana is a banned substance under the terms of the current
collective bargaining agreement between the union and the NFL. The
agreement runs through 2020.
[continues 91 words]
I keep trying to imagine how frightened Kathryn Johnston, 92, must
have been that night police stormed her Elm Street home. Here's what
we know about the last minutes of her life.
Sometime around 7 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2006, three Atlanta police
officers, dressed in plainclothes and wearing bulletproof vests,
forced Johnston's front door open.
Johnson fired on the officers but missed. They returned 39 shots,
hitting her five or six times. Prosecutors would later say that one of
them, Officer Jason R. Smith, handcuffed the elderly woman as she was
[continues 54 words]
In the mellow suburban town of Clarkston, where aging hippies mingle
easily with refugees, arrests for marijuana violations were never a
So it wasn't much of a surprise when the city passed Georgia's most
relaxed marijuana law, reducing the fine for possession of less than
an ounce of the drug to $75.
That was two and a half months ago. In that time, town leaders and
residents are proud to say, the law has resulted in absolutely no
changes. Clarkston is still Clarkston, not a drug haven.
As more time passes, some say, leaders of other cities might look at
the town and see that nothing bad happens when you get rid of $1,000
fines and threats of a criminal record for marijuana consumption.