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.
Since it opened in February, the narcotics treatment center Zac
Talbott co-owns in North Georgia has been booming, admitting more than
250 people with addictions to painkillers and heroin amid a nationwide
opioid overdose epidemic that is killing thousands of people each year.
For Talbott, the work is personal. He started using pain pills for
minor back pain when he was in graduate school. That habit spiraled
into an addiction, and he started buying pills on the street. Talbott
eventually got help and has been recovering for several years.
So he was dismayed when he learned just how many pain medication
prescriptions were issued in Georgia last year: a whopping 7.8
million, equivalent to more than one prescription for every single
adult in the Peach State.
The DEA announces it will keep marijuana on the list of most dangerous drugs.
In the eyes of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is
still considered dangerous enough to remain among the likes of
heroin, LSD, and ecstasy as a Schedule I drug.
Ever since The Controlled Substances Act became law in 1970,
marijuana has been deemed to have no medicinal benefits and a high
likelihood of abuse. And despite over half the states in the U.S.
legalizing medical or recreational marijuana in some form, the DEA
announced this month that marijuana wouldn't be declassified.
[continues 693 words]
ATLANTA - Twenty years after a federal law blocked people with felony
drug convictions from receiving welfare or food stamps, more states
are loosening those restrictions - or waiving them entirely.
In April, Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed a criminal justice
reform bill that lifted the ban on food stamps for drug felons in
Georgia. Alaska followed suit in July, although applicants must prove
they are complying with parole and are in treatment for substance
abuse. And in Delaware, a bill to lift cash assistance restrictions
for drug felons passed out of committee in June. The legislative
session ended before the bill could be put to a vote.
[continues 1261 words]
Feds Keep Marijuana on the List of Most Dangerous Drugs.
Federal officials' announcement last week to keep marijuana on the
list of most dangerous drugs has stunned Georgia advocates, who
called it "insane" and said it would hurt families trying to access a
form of medical marijuana legally allowed here.
"The impact on Georgia's families could be huge, as it could further
delay getting access to safe, lab-tested product here in Georgia,"
said Blaine Cloud, who with his wife, Shannon, have been at the
forefront of an organized push by parents to expand Georgia's
year-old medical marijuana law.
[continues 534 words]
MACON, Ga. (AP) - Medical marijuana supporters in Georgia were hoping
for something different from the federal government, not its recent
ruling that cannabis should remain off-limits.
Georgians like Janea Cox of Monroe County want to be able to get
medical cannabis just like other prescriptions instead of breaking
the law to seek therapies for themselves or their loved ones, The
It was difficult to hear news of Thursday's ruling from the federal
Drug Enforcement Administration, Cox told the Macon newspaper. The
agency decided marijuana will remain on the list of most dangerous
drugs, which includes heroin See page 16
[continues 541 words]
Georgia may never =93free the weed=94 but legalized
medical marijuana could save taxpayers millions,
say University of Georgia researchers.
In a recent study, the father-daughter team of
David and Ashley Bradford say in the 17 states
with a medical marijuana law in place by 2013,
Medicare saved approximately $165.2 million
because of lower prescription drug use.
If medical marijuana was approved in every state,
the overall savings to Medicare would have been
around $468 million. That's a lot of green. David
Bradford said he knows medical marijuana is a
controversial topic, and some view it as a
backdoor way of legalizing recreational
marijuana, but research indicates =93there's a
significant amount of clinical use at work here.=94
[continues 333 words]
The GOP's rejection of medical marijuana shows just how out of touch
the party really is. They're a half-century behind the times.
How can they possibly think they have a viable political platform?
It's just another reason why they will guarantee Hillary Clinton's election.
DONALD VARN, CONYERS
While Usage Is Legal in Some Cases, It Still Can't Be Grown in the State.
The phones at the Georgia Department of Public Health no longer ring
off the hook with people calling to find doctors or asking questions
about how the state's medical marijuana registry works.
Yet Georgia's quiet revolution in the year since it legalized a
limited form of medical marijuana has shown little sign of slowing.
Even so, obstacles and risks remain in the push for expansion.
[continues 1037 words]
The Clarkston City Council has voted unanimously to approve the most
liberal marijuana ordinance in the state, reducing fine from up to
$1,000 to $75 for possessing less than an ounce, and eliminating the
possibility of jail time for breaking municipal law.
"We just made history," whispered Sharon Ravert, a Dahlonega resident
and advocate for marijuana legalization, when she saw the council's
seven hands raised in unison on Tuesday.
Mayor Ted Terry has argued that drug law enforcement
"disproportionately affects lower income communities and communities
of color." As the state's hotbed for refugee resettlement, Clarkston
is one of the most diverse cities in the state. According to census
statistics, the city of 12,000 is nearly 60 percent black and 53.5
percent foreign born.
[continues 533 words]
Georgia Man Says Drug Beneficial for Autistic Son.
CLEVELAND - Dale Jackson, the father of an 8-yearold autistic son,
flew up to the site of the Republican National Convention on Monday
to ask his party's platform committee to endorse the use of medicinal
marijuana where appropriate.
He wanted to take Georgia's fight national.
Jackson found a delegate who would pitch the idea, but his luck ended
there. The 112-member committee that is currently drafting policy
positions for the 2016 presidential contest rejected it out of hand,
by a voice vote of two-thirds or more.
[continues 348 words]
Clarkston's effort to decriminalize pot has Gov. Nathan Deal and the
state's chief law enforcement officers tsk-tsking because that's what
governors and chief law enforcement people figure they must do when it
comes to "drugs."
Drugs are bad. Marijuana is a gateway drug. Guys who smoke too much
weed will grow man boobs. You've heard the Reefer Madness excuses before.
But Clarkston's on to something.
Arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana - less
than an ounce - is a crime in and of itself. It's an inane use of
government resources and brands people with a big green leafy M, one
that will follow them for years and continually close doors to them.
Clarkston is a different sort of place, a town where I saw three
separate women carrying groceries on their heads during a short visit.
It has became Ground Zero for the refugee resettlement debate in an
era when many Americans have hardened their outlooks on immigration.
Governor Expected to Sign Proposals Backed by Justice Reform Panel.
The change could help some 6,600 Georgians rejected each year for
food stamps because they are convicted drug felons, according to
research by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
Every time Norvell Lawhorne applied for food stamps, he was turned
down because he was a convicted drug felon. That conviction has made
it harder to find a job, housing and even food. He now makes his bed
in an Atlanta homeless shelter.
[continues 593 words]
Delegates at the Third District Republican Convention last weekend
overwhelmingly voiced their support for the expansion of Georgia's
laws on cannabis/marijuana-derived medicine, and for allowing the
medicine to be produced in Georgia.
A resolution supporting expanding the number of conditions that can
be treated with oil containing cannabidiol (CBD), a component of
marijuana, and in-state cultivation of cannabis used to make the oil,
passed with very little opposition at the convention, held April 16 in Newnan.
The resolution passed on a voice vote. Dale Jackson, Third District
chairman for the Georgia Republican Party and a lobbyist for medical
cannabis, said there were approximately 200 delegates and he only saw
about three 'no' votes.
[continues 359 words]
A Macon attorney admitted Wednesday she participated in a drug deal
in the parking lot of a Church's Chicken restaurant on Hardeman
Avenue, near Interstate 75 and downtown Macon, in June 2015.
[name redacted], 36, pleaded guilty to possession of oxycodone and
methamphetamine, with intent to distribute both drugs, during a
hearing in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.
A federal judge agreed to allow [name redacted] to remain on bond
until her July 6 sentencing hearing. She could face up to 20 years in
prison and a $1 million fine.
[continues 407 words]
Sometimes the curtain is pulled aside, allowing us to see what's
going on in the often-opaque worlds of government and finance. Such
an occasion has been happening with what's being called the Panama
Papers, released by the International Consortium of Investigative
Journalists. It's going to take not months, but years, to wade
through the estimated 11 million documents leaked from a Panamanian
law firm that specializes in crafting tax shelters.
But initial disclosures are both troubling and offer insight. "The
documents reference 12 current or former world leaders, as well as
128 other politicians and public officials," CNN reported.
Implicated, in particular, are associates of Russian President
Vladimir Putin; FIFA, the global soccer governing body, 40 of whose
officials were indicted in 2015 by the U.S. Justice Department on
corruption charges; and Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.
[continues 219 words]
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified
as a Schedule I drug, which means it has no medicinal value and is
But the Drug Enforcement Administration is, once again, considering
moving it to a less restrictive category that better reflects both
its danger and the undeniable facts on the ground - that nearly half
the states in the nation allow the use of cannabis for medical
purposes, and several allow it to be used recreationally. The DEA
told lawmakers that it intends to make a decision by July.
[continues 267 words]
Clarkston leaders may try to make their city the first in Georgia to
Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry said the City Council's public safety
committee this month will review whether to make possession of less
than 1 ounce of marijuana a ticket-only offense, putting it on the
same level as a run-of-the-mill traffic violation. He expects the
full council to bring it to a vote as early as May.
"The bottom line is the War on Drugs has failed," said Terry, also a
vice chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia. "It is time for
elected officials to use evidence-based policies to make our
communities safer and fight drug abuse."
[continues 475 words]
Mayor Ted Terry may want to make Clarkston the first Georgia city to
decriminalize marijuana, but one of the state's leading law
enforcement advocates had a blunt message about the effort: No way.
"The only thing I can say about that is no municipal government has
the authority to decriminalize anything that the Georgia General
Assembly and federal government still say is a crime," said Chuck
Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia.
"State law and federal law will still apply to the citizens within
the municipality" even if Clarkston enacts the proposal, said Spahos,
who is also solicitor general in Henry County.
[continues 62 words]
Mothers Not Waiting on Further Changes in Cannabis Oil Laws
Civil disobedience is as American as baseball, but the writer Henry
David Thoreau could never have imagined what issues would inspire
such symbolic acts come the 21st century.
For example, Georgia parents who treat their children with cannabis
oil to manage seizures, including several in Hall County and
Northeast Georgia, are publicly stating that they are willing to
break the law, if necessary, to acquire cannabis oil.
It's the latest fault line in the medical marijuana fight, pitting
patients and their families against law enforcement.
[continues 830 words]
Bill in State Senate Would Expand Conditions, Allow for In-State
Production of Drug
Proposals to expand the use, cultivation and distribution of cannabis
oil in Georgia are on life support as the state legislature enters
its final week of action for 2016.
But families who swear by the effectiveness of the drug know what a
lifesaver it can be.
A vote stalled in the Senate on House Bill 722 that would expand the
number of conditions that can be treated with cannabis oil, even
after plans for in-state manufacturing of the drug were scrapped.
[continues 612 words]
CHICKAMAUGA - Legislation placing a temporary moratorium on new
narcotic treatment centers passed the Georgia House of
Representatives, 169-0, and awaits the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal.
The legislation was filed by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, out of
concern over the growing number of centers alongside an increase in
Georgia is ranked third nationally in the number of narcotic
treatment centers, with 63 currently operating within the state.
Mullis said heroin use and overdoses in Georgia have skyrocketed in
the last five years, a stark contradiction of the large number of
treatment centers aimed at reducing addiction rates.
Senate Bill 402 halts new licensing until June 30, 2017. It also
creates a state commission to study the licensure process as well as
the density of existing narcotic treatment centers within the state.
The Georgia House on Monday overwhelmingly approved House Bill 722,
which would expand the list of ailments that qualify for the state's
limited medical marijuana program.
By a vote of 152-8, the House sent state Rep. Allen Peake's bill to the Senate.
Peake, a Macon Republican, said the bill moves the ball forward but
falls short of what he had hoped to accomplish this year. HB 722
originally would have created a state-sponsored program to grow,
cultivate and manufacture medical marijuana in Georgia, but
opposition from law enforcement put an end to that.
Instead, it adds several disorders to the list of diseases that
qualifies for the state program. But patients will still have to risk
arrest by traveling out of state to obtain the medication.
The author of legislation aimed at expanding the state's medical
marijuana law said he won't continue to push for cultivation in
Georgia this year after the bill ran into problems in committee Monday.
The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee eliminated a provision in
House Bill 722 that would have allowed limited cultivation and
production of cannabis oil. The bill would also increase the number
of diseases for which marijuana could be used.
Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, wasn't happy about the change.
[continues 155 words]