For the past few years, the US has been stuck in a state of civil unrest, with millions of Americans protesting police brutality against unarmed black folk. Triggered by the tragic murder of George Floyd by a police officer on the streets of Minneapolis, the countrywide protests have forced lawmakers to start working on policing reform legislation. In Georgia, as part of a recently filed comprehensive bill, lawmakers added a provision to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession.
It’s no secret that the decades-long War on Drugs has had a disproportionate effect on the black community. Advocates for the legalization of marijuana have repeatedly stated that legalizing cannabis is the first step in reversing the damage done to such communities. Senate Democrats introduced the Georgia Justice Bill to coincide with the reconvening of the legislative session this week. It covers a wide range of issues such as racial profiling, police body cameras, demilitarizing law enforcement, and cannabis policy reform.
Presently, state law dictates that possession of up to one ounce of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. The provision to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession would require state law to be amended so that possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $300 fine without the threat of jail time. Possession of more than a half-ounce but less than two ounces would be punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.
“We have long felt the anguish that many Americans of all races are now experiencing. Racism is deeply embedded in our criminal justice system and it has permeated our society. The videos of police brutality that we’ve all seen demonstrate that our system must be fixed and fixed now,” said Sen. Harold Jones II the Democratic Caucus Whip and original sponsor of the bill in a press release. A former prosecutor now in private practice, he has been a longtime proponent of reforming minor drug offenses. He argues that many marijuana possession charges are what lead to over-policing and many times result in injury and even death.
“Cannabis is used as a pretext for thousands of police stops that happen daily in communities of color. Removing cannabis as a justification for police interaction is a reform urgently needed to address systemic racism and abusive policing,” says Marijuana Policy Project State Policies Director Karen O’Keefe. “While the Georgia Justice Act’s provision to stop incarcerating individuals for simple possession of marijuana would prevent trauma, even broader reforms are needed to dramatically reduce police harassment that uses cannabis as an excuse. Decriminalization can reduce arrests dramatically, but for the number of demeaning searches and stops to reduce, legalization is needed.”
It would be interesting to hear what established marijuana companies like Green Growth Brands Inc. (CSE: GGB) (OTCQB: GGBXF) think about the nationwide ramifications if Georgia enacted this bill into law.
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