I have to appreciate the clickworthyness of the link Stefan posted in his Morning Reads yesterday about “parents pushing for legal marijuana in Georgia”. The WSB headline makes you think parents are seeking the help of legislators to keep their perfect suburban golden children out of the county probation office. The article actually deals with medicinal uses for sick children suffering from seizures and genetic disorders but it does bring into question where Georgia will fall in terms of likelihood to change marijuana laws.
Statute reform surrounding marijuana has been a hot topic in the news with new studies released almost daily and a CNN poll from just a few days ago showed 55% of people in favor of legalization of marijuana and 44% against. Another poll of Georgians in 2013 showed yet another increase in support of legalization, which often surprises many. I would argue that some people don’t know what exactly they are answering as they don’t know the difference between decriminalization- which reduces and reclassifies penalties- and legalization, which obviously removes penalties all together. Overall, though, the trend, as seen in this pretty chart, is on the upswing towards legalization.
In Georgia, metro Atlanta counties especially have a huge problem with the over-criminalization of pot. Certainly no one wants a tri-state trafficker for a neighbor but another growing trend is in the support for alternative sentencing for first time and youthful offenders in the court systems. The disgruntled attitude toward the mandatory minimums and the cost on state and local governments to enforce some of the regulations is no longer a minority thought. This Ricochet article sums it up best:
Marijuana prohibition is like every other prohibition: it drives up costs, creates black markets, and criminalizes trivial behavior( emphasis added). This prohibition feeds an increasingly Kafkaesque, asset-forfeiture-driven, militarized police system, and takes up tens of thousands of prison beds that could be occupied by violent offenders. It costs billions in state and federal enforcement programs with an abysmal price-to-punch ratio.
The far right has vehemently opposed any type of decriminalization in other states but yet, they are surprisingly quiet as each state implements less stringent laws and the predicted catastrophic events simply don’t happen. The same far right also forgets that, coupled with the ideas from Ricochet, the prohibition of something doesn’t exactly project the idea of small government and personal responsibility.
So, back to Georgia. Is Georgia ready for medicinal uses of marijuana? As a state, are we open-minded enough to decriminalize minor drug offenses? Can we see past the social stigma and see the big government we are creating? And more importantly, can staunch social conservatives handle the legalization of a substance that will literally make the Earth stop spinning? Certainly some of the folks we elect, or re-elect, in the upcoming statewide elections will gauge where we are on the spectrum. The problem for advocacy groups, whether they be Liberty, small government or just pro-420, is finding a legislator who will put their name on it. The one who does will be on the chopping block with a few extreme(ly loud) organizations for quite a while.
Medical use, decriminalization or legalization: when answering ‘Where does Georgia fall in considering changes to marijuana laws’, I would have to say ‘the bottom’.