Two pieces of pro-cannabis legislation were introduced during the current 2018 Georgia legislative session; unfortunately, neither passed into the other house by crossover day. SR614 would have authorized the legalization and regulation of marijuana and SB344 would have regulated the retail sale of marijuana, while laying the foundation to nullify federal cannabis prohibition in effect in the state. With six sponsors each (a similar resolution in 2017 died without a vote, supported by only one state senator) these bills represent progress, but also demonstrate how far Georgia has to go toward reasonable and responsible cannabis-related policy.
Cannabis (we choose to use the medical name for this familiar plant, rather than the intentionally xenophobic ‘marijuana’) experienced a few victories last year, including a unanimous vote by the Atlanta City Council to decriminalize simple possession of cannabis in the city. By reducing the penalties to a $75 civil fine and removing the threat of jail time for less than an ounce of cannabis, Atlanta set a precedent for other Georgia Cities to follow. Little Clarkston led the way almost two years ago, and DeKalb County and Savannah have followed the capital city’s example.
Outside those forward-thinking municipalities’ borders, though, individuals caught with more than 1 ounce of cannabis need to lawyer up: penalties can include a felony record, a 10-year prison term, and $5,000 fine.
Successful legalization of the adult use of marijuana would not only reduce Georgia’s non-violent prison population, but would be a significant move toward repairing the racially disproportionate damage caused by the misguided War on Drugs.
Though more than half of states have legalized its consumption in some form, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level. Its Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 claims the plant has no medical uses – despite the federal government’s longstanding patent for medical uses of cannabis-derived compounds. States who’ve acted to nullify the federal prohibition have significantly reduced the imprisonment of peaceful citizens and raised a tremendous amount of tax revenue associated with cannabis sales.
The national Libertarian Party and the Libertarian Party of Georgia’s stance on the War on Drugs is that it is ineffective at limiting access to dangerous drugs and, instead, empowers dangerous gangs that make incredible fortunes on the black market for these illegal drugs. The War on Drugs has imprisoned millions of non-violent people: more people are arrested for cannabis possession in Georgia each year than attend the University of Georgia. The War on Drugs is largely responsible for the militarization of police forces in America, and its unjust tactics degrade the relationship between law enforcement and communities.
In short, Libertarians believe that it is immoral for the government to dictate which substances a person is permitted to consume: alcohol, tobacco, herbal remedies, saturated fats, cannabis, or anything else. These decisions belong to individual people, not the government. When the citizens say “NO” to the federal government by changing the legislation on the state level, we will begin to see change towards a pro-liberty approach and solution to this “smoking” hot topic.