JEFFERSONVILLE, GA. - When Georgia authorities found out that smoking
marijuana was ridding 15-year-old David Ray of seizures that had plagued
him through childhood, the consequences were swift and severe.
His mother and stepfather - Suzeanna and Matthew Brill - were arrested
and jailed for six days. David, no longer able to medicate with pot,
was hospitalized for a week after suffering what his mother called
"the worst seizure of his life." He was then discharged to strangers
and sent to a Division of Family and Children Services group home
after his parents were stripped of custody - another example of "how
the war on drugs breaks up families," said Lauren Deal, Suzeanna
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Teachers at Northwest High School near Dalton, Ga. first became
concerned when their colleague, 28-year-old cheer coach and English
teacher Raquel Spencer, seemed to have trouble carrying on a coherent
conversation, according to the Times Free Press.
Alarmed by her "unusual behavior," she was escorted to an office and
consented to a search of her belongings, Whitfield County Schools
spokesperson Eric Beavers told the Dalton Daily-Citizen.
That's when the school resource officer found heroin in her
belongings, the paper reported.
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More Georgia voters than ever support changing state law to allow
harvesting and distribution of medical marijuana, according to a poll
by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Over three-quarters of those surveyed said Georgia's medical marijuana
program should be expanded, an increase from previous years. This
year's AJC poll showed that 77 percent want greater access to medical
marijuana, compared with 71 percent last year and 73 percent in 2016.
Meanwhile, approval of marijuana legalization for recreational use
also reached new heights, with 50 percent of respondents backing
legalization, compared with 46 percent last year.
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As an African-American woman who has seen the negative ramifications
an ounce of marijuana can have on one's life, I found the article
"Atlanta Mayor Reed to review, sign changes to city marijuana laws,"
According to ACLU, African-Americans are more than four times as
likely to be arrested as white adults. By reducing the penalty and
eliminating jail time, fewer African-Americans will have a criminal
record. In Atlanta, African-Americans make up 92 percent of those
arrested for marijuana possession. By decriminalizing marijuana and
reducing the penalty, the crime rate amongst African-Americans will
A strict drug penalty is not stopping the usage of marijuana. Why not
lessen the offense and put the money into the communities that are
disproportionately affected by the incarceration rate?
Alexis Blackmon, Marietta
Anthony Gray expected to be an old man when he got out of prison after
serving a 30-year sentence for a relatively minor drug offense.
Aron Tuff was certain he would die there, having been sentenced to
life without parole after he was convicted in 1995 in Colquitt County
for possession of .03 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Both men were sentenced during a time when tough on crime drug laws of
the 1980s and '90s left many low-level drug offenders serving long
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.