Georgia on our Minds

50med mj 1 Georgia on our Minds It’s a little known fact that Georgia was actually one of the first states in the country to enact medical marijuana research. The “Therapeutic Research Act” passed without dissension in the Georgian General Assembly in 1980, but as in Maine, without adequate federal supply of medical marijuana, the project never took flight. This may be surprising to many, as Georgia is now known for harsh, at times even unjustifiable decisions regarding marijuana possession and cultivation. Interestingly enough, this week US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, along with seven other of her colleges, came to this same conclusion over a recent Georgian possession case, giving one man and his family the chance to reunite after he was deported for possessing enough marijuana to roll roughly two or three joints. Adrian Moncrieffe first came to the United States from Jamaica at the age of three in 1984. Since then his family gained legal residency, Moncrieffe grew up, got married, and had five children of his own, employed as a home healthcare worker in Georgia. Things seemed to be moving along smoothly for Moncrieffe unlike many other immigrants to the country who spend years seeking residency status before starting a family or career, but everything changed in 2007. Moncrieffe was pulled over during a routine traffic check where police found a small amount of marijuana in his vehicle. In state court - regardless of Moncrieffe’s clean record - he was charged with possession and intent to distribute - a penalty which in Georgia can be coupled with sentences ranging from 1 to 10 years in prison. Moncrieffe’s lawyers neglected to inform him that this sentencing could also include deportation if he plead guilty, so without full understanding, Moncrieffe took a deal where he would avoid prison and have a once-again clean record after five years of probation. After Moncrieffe accepted the plea bargain, the federal government incarcerated him and promptly deported him to Jamaica, claiming he had plead guilty to an aggravated felony - an event which enacts deportation in this country. All of this in a state hailed as being a potential leader for medical marijuana research over thirty years ago. Moncrieffe had better luck Tuesday in the Supreme Court. Justice Sotomayor said of the initial Georgian ruling that characterizing this offense, possessing a small amount of marijuana, as in any way an aggravated felony “defies the commonsense conception of these terms.” Sotomayor also wrote that while sale of large quantities of marijuana is certainly a felony, owning a small amount is not. The country’s highest court concluded that Moncrieffe’s felony was clearly not on an aggravated level and hence the government had discretion in the choice to deport him. Moncrieffe has now been given the chance to seek return entry to the U.S., where his wife and children remain. “It’s just a good day,” Moncrieff said amidst tears Tuesday after learning of the court’s decision, “for me and my family.” It’s hard to say what happened in Georgia - what shifted the state from a pot-curious one to a place which deports long-time, good standing residents over a few joints worth of weed but advocacy groups are gaining some ground. A recent poll by Landmark/Rossetta Stone, asking the question “Do you support or oppose Georgia loosening its laws governing the possession and consumption of marijuana?” showed that there may be more public support for marijuana reform than before. While it’s hard to determine how an entire state feels by response to one question, said James Bell, director of the Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform and Education of marijuana - CARE -  33% of those polled in the state said they would support marijuana reform and nearly 10% said they had no opinion on the matter. “Georgia lawmakers are currently engaged in reforming Georgia’s criminal justice system,” said Bell, “marijuana law reform should be part of this discussion.” Other southern states, like Atlanta, have already begun to discuss marijuana reform, so it stands to reason that eventually Georgia will finally CARE enough to reconsider its pot-past.

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