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Georgia: Atlanta Decriminalizes Marijuana

Atlanta, GA Decrim 2017

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Last week, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that he signed the historic city council ordinance decriminalizing marijuana.

“I am pleased to sign this ordinance, which eliminates jail time as a penalty for a conviction for possession of less than an ounce, into law,” Reed said. “People of color, young and low-income people are disproportionately jailed – with sentences up to six months – for possessing small amounts of marijuana. An average of 1,000 people are arrested each year in Atlanta for possession only. We needed to change that. I believe our public safety resources are better directed to stopping and preventing violent crime.”

Georgia: Atlanta City Council Votes To Decriminalize Cannabis

Atlanta Cannabis Decriminalization

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council voted to decriminalize cannabis in an unanimous decision. After the historic 15-0 vote from the City Council, the proposed ordinance was sent to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to either sign or veto the legislation. If the mayor signs it, which he said he intends to, the ordinance will become city law.

After the vote, Mayor Reed indicated that he was interested in signing the legislation. In a tweet, the mayor thanked council members for their "leadership on marijuana reform."

Georgia: Medical Cannabis Oil Law Expands

Gov Nathan Deal

Since the latest expansion law took effect, 185 people registered as caregivers bringing the statewide total to 2,248

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

On Tuesday, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law a measure that expands the state’s medical cannabis program. Senate Bill 16 adds six more conditions eligible for treatment with a limited form of cannabis oil in Georgia. The conditions include: AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. Patients in hospice care are also allowed to possess the oil.

Georgia: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal has signed legislation expanding the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patients, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Patients suffering from AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s syndrome, and those in hospice care are now able to possess low-THC cannabis oil. There is no legal way to obtain it in the state, however.

The bill would have initially dropped the allowable THC content from 5 percent to 3 percent, but the chamber agreed to keep the 5 percent threshold intact after law enforcement and public health officials reported that there were no issues with the THC content.

State Rep. Allen Peake said the expansion offers patients “a ray of hope for a better quality of life.”

“My hope is that in 2018 we can fill the gaping hole that still remains, and provide legal access to medical cannabis oil here in our state with a safe, lab tested product produced within our own borders,” Peake said in a statement. “The job will not be finished until we accomplish this task.”

Peake, a Republican, has been supplying cannabis oils to some of the state’s registered patients and is the author of the House version of the newly-signed bill.

Georgia has 1,738 patients and 354 physicians registered with the medical marijuana program.

Georgia: GOP Rep. Allen Peake Supplying Low-THC Oils To State's Registered Patients


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Republican Rep. Allen Peake is supplying low-THC cannabis oils to Georgia patients due to the state's limited laws that allow them to possess the products but offer no way for them to cultivate, import, or purchase them, the Associated Press reports. Peake, a major advocate for Georgia's medical marijuana law, has helped families move to Colorado in the past so they would have legal access to medical marijuana treatments.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to be able to help get product to these families, these citizens who have debilitating illnesses,” Peake said in the report. He added that he doesn’t know , and doesn’t ask, who delivers the boxes of cannabis oil to his Macon office.

He said that he makes a donation to a medical cannabis research foundation in Colorado each time a box is delivered, and that the donations total about $100,000 per year. Peake is allowed to legally possess the oil because he has obtained a medical marijuana card from the Georgia Department of Public Health, despite the fact that he is not considered a qualified patient under the state’s rules.

In Georgia, about 1,300 patients are enrolled in the state program and, aside from Peake, their only option to obtain the oil is online, which is against federal law.

Georgia: Atlanta Considers Eliminating Jail Time For Marijuana


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

If the Atlanta City Council passes a bill under consideration, people caught with marijuana in Atlanta may not have to do jail time and pay a $1,000 fine.

The Atlanta City Council will consider legislation at April's meeting to lower fines for marijuana possession to $75 and eliminate any jail time. Under current law, people caught possessing marijuana face a fine of up to $1,000 and can receive up to six months in jail.

Advocates are pushing for the change, saying the move is necessary to address racial disparities in arrests for marijuana use.

92 percent of those arrested in Atlanta between 2014 and 2016 for possession were African American and 85 percent were male, according to the Racial Justice Action Center. An American Civil Liberties Union analysis of marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010 found blacks were 3.73 times more likely to be arrested nationally for possession of the drug than whites.

City Councilman Michael Julian Bond said he was conflicted because he doesn’t want to encourage drug use, but agreed that the penalties outweighed the violation. But he suggested that $75 may be too low a fine and that jail time could be warranted in some circumstances.

“For me this is an extremely complicated subject,” said Bond, who said he has lost friends to drugs. “I believe as a policy body, we ought not to rush this.

Georgia: House Approves Compromise To Expand Medical Marijuana Program


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A compromise that would expand the list of disorders eligible for treatment with medical marijuana was overwhelmingly approved by Georgia House lawmakers Tuesday.

The chamber voted 167-4 to adopt senate Bill 16 after Senate lawmakers backed off a proposal to lower the THC level of the cannabis oil Georgia patients can legally use.

“This bill doesn’t go as far as many of us like, it does add six more conditions,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, (R-Macon) godfather of the state’s medical marijuana program. “And it does allow many more Georgians to benefit from this law.”

"I’m grateful we’ve moved the ball," Peake said. "We’re not there yet. We still have a huge issue of, where do we access the product. And until we deal with that we’re still going to be shortchanging our citizens in some respects."

Peake received a standing ovation from members of the House for his work on the measure after being introduced by Speaker Davis Ralston. Peake is a possible upcoming candidate for higher office.

Governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign the bill into law.

Georgia: House Passes Medical Marijuana Expansion

Georgia medical.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Georgia House on Wednesday backed a broad expansion of the state's medical marijuana law.

House Bill 65, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would double the list of illnesses and conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Georgia to include AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, HIV, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome.

The bill will remove a one-year residency requirement.

It will also allow people with registration cards from other states with similar low-THC cannabis oil laws to also possess the oil in Georgia.

Under Georgia’s 2015 law, patients and, in the case of children, families who register with the state are allowed to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of eight specific illnesses, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

The oil can have no more than 5 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the component of marijuana that causes a "high."

Federal officials still consider the oil an illegal drug.

Georgia: Medical Marijuana Expansion Moves Ahead In State House

medical marijuana 2.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A broad expansion to Georgia’s medical marijuana law passed a House panel Monday, coming closer to a floor vote before Friday's deadline for passage.

House Bill 65, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would double the list of illnesses and conditions eligible for treatment with medical marijuana in Georgia to include AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, HIV, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome.

The bill would also allow people who have registration cards from other states that similarly allow possession of certain low-THC cannabis oil to also possess the oil in Georgia.

The bill passed on a 7-3 vote, and the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee made changes that would require annual reporting by doctors who oversee medical marijuana patients. They also removed post-traumatic stress disorder from the proposed list of newly eligible diseases.

Under Georgia’s 2015 law, patients who register with the state are allowed to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of eight specific illnesses, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

The oil can have no more than 5 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the component of marijuana that causes a "high".

The bill must win passage from the House by Friday to have a clear path to becoming law.

Georgia: Dead Man Leads Police To $12 Million Marijuana Stash


By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Police were led to a $12 million marijuana stash in Gwinnett County, Georgia Monday by a dead man.

Gwinnett County police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said officers responded to a 911 call that reported "a man slumped over near a white van" at a storage yard near Norcross. The man was dead, apparently from natural causes. He was later identified as 31-year-old Connecticut resident Johnny Taylor.

Officers "looking around the scene for signs of foul play" soon "noticed a very faint smell of suspected marijuana coming from inside the van." K9s called to the scene didn't detect anything, but a box inside the van was eventually opened — and a large amount of marijuana was discovered inside, sealed in bags.

Similar boxes were found inside the tractor-trailer.

"After a search warrant was obtained," Pihera said in a news release, "several hundred pounds of marijuana were seized. The street value is approximately $12 million." An exact number was not released, but Pihera said more than 500 pounds of pot were recovered.

Police said there were no sign of trauma to Taylor's body and believe he died of natural causes. Security footage shows him pulling up in the van around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, just minutes after another man pulled up in the tractor trailor and left in a gold Toyota Camry.

Georgia: Two Pounds Of Marijuana Mailed To Atlanta High School

box of weed.jpg

A box of marijuana was shipped from a California school to a school in Atlanta, Georgia, police said.

The U.S. Postal Service delivered the package to the registrar's office at Carver High School in southeast Atlanta around lunchtime Monday.

Atlanta police Officer K. Barnes said in a narrative that a school employee had opened the package and found it contained two pounds and 10 ounces of marijuana.

There was a faint marijuana odor from inside the USPS box, but it "quickly became strong as I removed the two individually packaged bundles,” Barnes said in the narrative. It was double wrapped inside vacuum sealed shrink bags.

School officials were unable to find the recipient's name in the Atlanta Public Schools Database, and the address on the package was unclear, police reported.

Officers did find a tracking number for the package and found it had traveled through Merced and West Sacramento, Calif., and Opa-locka, Pompano Beach and Tampa, Fla. before being delivered to Carter High’s registrar’s office at 11:44 a.m. Monday.

The marijuana was given to the Atlanta Police Department’s narcotics unit.

Georgia: Clarkston Defies Opposition And Continues With Plan To Decriminalize Marijuana

Ted Terry.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The city of Clarkston is forging ahead with a vote as soon as next week to make it the first city in Georgia to decriminalize marijuana, despite warnings from law enforcement officials and Gov. Nathan Deal that it would violate state and federal law.

Mayor Ted Terry's plan to make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a ticket-only offense was reviewed in a city hearing last week, and the full city council could vote on the policy at its next meeting on May 3.

Meanwhile, Terry said he'd tried to set up a meeting with Deal to sell him on the idea as part of a criminal justice overhaul that was the centerpiece of his first term in office.

“I think that if he stopped for a minute and looked at the evidence, and past the political rhetoric, he will see that this policy can only strengthen his criminal justice reform legacy,” said Terry.

Clarkston’s plan would implement a fee schedule that could charge as little as $5 in Municipal Court for the first offense. That’s down from a fine that generally ranges from $600 to $1,000.

Deal has made it clear that he would oppose any efforts to decriminalize the drug.

Georgia: Battle Over 'No Buzz' Medical Marijuana Law Turns To Civil Disobedience


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A civil disobedience campaign is now underway in Georgia to try to force legislators to expand the state's weak CBD only medical marijuana law, which left a lot of suffering children without legal access to the medicine they need.

A Georgia mpom is helping lead that fight to expand the state's extremely limited medical marijuana law, which she said unfairly excludes many patients with severe medical conditions, including her five-year-old autistic daughter, who could benefit from the medicinal properties of cannabis.

"There are some pretty tenacious parents who are fighting," said Jennifer Conforti, whose daughter, Abby, isn't covered by the current "CBD-only" law, written by lawmakers who understand neither the medicinal properties of cannabinoids, nor, according to Sue Rusche, president and CEO of the Atlanta-based drug prevention organization National Families in Action,m the process of drug approval.

Georgia: Small Town Mayor Wants To Treat Marijuana Like Traffic Ticket

pot bud.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Clarkston, GA city council may make their municipality the first in Georgia to decriminalize one ounce or less of marijuana.

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry told WSB-TV that he wants simple possession to be treated like a traffic ticket. The proposal being considered would result in a $5 fine for simple possession.

“This is still a controversial issue. At some point it’s going to take a city council, county commission, mayor or elected officials to step up and do something,” he said. “It’s obvious the war on drugs has been a failure.”

The proposal is now being considered by the city's public safety committee.

Marijuana would still be legal, but the penalty would change, just requiring violators to pay the fine.

“We don’t want to ruin someone's life for something that is as harmless as being in possession of a very small amount,” Terry said. “I don’t want our police officers to spend their time worrying about low-level nonviolent drug offenses. I’m more concerned about stopping violent crime and burglaries in Clarkston.”

The full City Council is expected to vote on the proposal in May.

Georgia: Governor's Leaked Emails Show He Never Intends To Expand Medical Marijuana Law

Georgia mmj.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Even though the majority of Georgia residents are in favor of legislation to make medical marijuana legal, a new report shows that Governor Nathan Deal had nixed the idea of growing marijuana in Georgia long before the state legislature shut it down.

An internal email trail between Governor Deal’s office and Representative Allen Peake, the lawmaker responsible for introducing the cultivation proposal, reveals that ever since Georgia officials got back from a Colorado fact-finding mission in November 2015, the plan has been to ensure a medical marijuana expansion plan never occurs.

The emails obtained by TV 11Alive’s Chris Hopper show that Governor Deal’s cronies, which included leading law enforcement officials, apparently did such a good job defaming the Colorado cannabis market — calling it a “mess” and a “nightmare” — that Deal had already made the decision never to allow marijuana to be grown in Georgia by the middle of last November.

In addition, the emails show that when Representative Peake made an effort to schedule future visits to additional medical marijuana groups, the governor’s chief of staff, Chris Riley asked him to “shut down the other trips” because the governor did not support any exploration or further consideration of the issue.

Peake responded to Riley’s email by offering to take the trip on his own dime, and that he hoped the Governor would not “let law enforcement’s fear stop us from doing something good for our citizens.”

Georgia: New Medical Marijuana Law Dead

Georgia medical marijuana.jpg

A bill to expand Georgia's medical marijuana law appears to be dead. House bill 722 will not move out of a Senate committee in time for a vote.

The bill would have added six conditions, including post traumatic stress disorder, to the list of allowed illnesses and diseases that are legally treatable with medical marijuana.

Se. Renee Unterman, of the Health and Human Services Commission, said on Monday that the bill will not see a full Senate vote.

“Unfortunately, after the bill came over from the House, the families were split,” Unterman said. “I had half the families come to me and ask me to hold the bill and then I had half the families who wanted to move the bill.”

Sponsor of the bill Rep. Allen Peake disputed the suggestion that parents were divided on the bill.

"I will feed free food at my restaurant for a month to anyone who can find one parent who has been advocating for this issue who is now opposed,” Peake said. "This is a bill that only got 8 negative votes in the House, passed overwhelmingly, will benefit several hundred -- maybe even thousands -- of individuals that are hurting and have debilitating illnesses in Georgia, so I can't understand why we wouldn't want to move down that path of potential benefit for those hurting Georgians."

Georgia: House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

Georgia medical marijuana.jpg

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A stripped down medical marijuana bill passed the Georgia state House Monday morning with a vote of 152 to 8.

The bill adds six conditions to the list of diseases and allowed illnesses that patients can treat with cannabis oil.

However, legal growth of medical marijuana in the state of Georgia will not be permitted. The bill only allows for shipment of cannabis oil into the state for qualified patients.

Some parents feel these limitations leave them stuck. "My daughter uses a product that has 3 percent THC in it, so we have to go to another state and break their law and then break federal laws to bring it back," Vince Seivert told WXIA TV.

Some were concerned that medical marijuana reform would lead to legal recreational marijuana. Backer of the bill, Sen. Allen Peake, says that wouldn't happen under his watch. "I will fight with just as much passion to block legalization of marijuana for recreational use as I fought for these families to have access to it here in Georgia," Peake said.

Georgia: Parents Plan To Publicly Break Law To Get Medical Marijuana For Kids


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With a quick prayer, a group of Georgia parents are preparing to very publicly break the marijuana laws. The room full of parents who have kids they believe can benefit from cannabis oil agreed that they will not be defeated by the recent gutting of the state's medical marijuana legislation.

"The governor has asked us to break federal law; the governor has asked us to break another state's law," parent Vince Seivert said, reports Christopher S. Hopper at WXIA.

Some saw House Bill 722 as the logical successor after House Bill 1 passed last year, allowing Georgia parents to use and possess non-psychoactive CBD oil, derived from cannabis. Parents and patients were hoping HB 722 would make it easier for them to obtain their medicine.

But on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee approved a gutted version of HB 722 that stripped out in-state cultivation language. In the version of the bill passed by the committee on Wednesday, post-traumatic stress disorder was added back to the list of authorized illnesses that can be treated with cannabis oil.

HB 722 now goes back to the House Rules Committee, where it could be put on the calendar for a full House vote.

Some say the new version of the bill doesn't help enough.

Georgia: Medical Marijuana Won't Be Grown Anytime Soon


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana won't be grown in Georgia anytime soon, according to sources close to the situation.

Macon lawmaker Rep. Allen Peake, who has pushed medicinal cannabis legislation, stripped in-state cultivation out of House Bill 722 on Monday, reports Christopher S. Hopper at 11Alive News.

Other lawmakers, law enforcement officials, religious groups, and even Governor Nathan Deal had joined in an increasingly shrill chorus of voices warning against growing medical marijuana in Georgia. These excitable folks apparently believe that -- uniquely among all medical marijuana states, which are now about half the Union -- Georgia would somehow be selected for persecution and prosecution by the federal government if it dares do something really crazy like protecting sick folks.

HB 722 was widely viewed as the next step after House Bill 1 passed last year, allowing patients to lawfully use and possess non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis oil. Patients were counting on HB 722 to make it easier for them to obtain their medicine.

A gutted version of HB 722, with in-state cultivation language stripped away, was written up. The gutted version also takes away original language which would have given a greater number of patients access by expanding the allowed list of illnesses from eight 1o 17. PTSD and intractable pain were both removed from the list.

Georgia: 46 Correctional Officers Charged For Drug Trafficking


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The FBI arrested 46 current and former corrections officers in an early Thursday sting at nine prisons around Georgia as a result of a two-year undercover operation.

The indictments showed "staggering corruption within Georgia Department of Corrections institutions," said John Horn, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, report Pamela Brown and MaryLynn Ryan at CNN.

Among the arrestees were five members of a super-elite squad intended to bust up drug dealing in prison -- who were, you guessed it, dealing drugs in prison -- called the Cobra unit. Two civilians and one inmate were also rounded up in the bust.

Officers were charged with using their badges to facilitate drug deals both inside and outside the prison walls. The trafficking included multiple kilos of cocaine and methamphetamine in exchange for thousands of dollars in bribe money.

Prison guards and staff were smuggling contraband including liquor, tobacco and cell phones into the cell blocks for money. Inmates used the illegal cell phones they acquired to commit wire fraud, money laundering and identity theft.

"It makes a huge challenge for law enforcement," said Britt Johnson, special agent in charge of the Atlanta FBI office. "After you chase down, arrest and prosecute criminals and put them away for life, and they continue to direct crime on the streets from their jail cells."

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