Activists See Gold Dome Support for Marijuana Reform

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(APN) ATLANTA — On April 20, 2012, several organizations that advocate for marijuana policy reform held their annual 420 rally at the Georgia Capitol.

Co-sponsors of the event included Group Civil Disobedience (Non-violent); Georgia for Cannabis; Moms for Marijuana Georgia Chapter; Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University Chapters; Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition; and the Peachtree and Georgia chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

The rally featured speakers, a band, chanting protesters, tables with literature and petitions, and the usual features of such rallies.  About one hundred people attended.

But one notable fact emerged when Sharon Ravert, Executive Director of Peachtree NORML, announced that her organization had a positive reception as they lobbied members of the Georgia legislature this year.

“We’ve talked to people in this building.  They [legislators] say, ‘we’ll sponsor it.’” Ravert said during her remarks.

Dean Sines, Outreach Coordinator for Peachtree NORML, later told Atlanta Progressive News that advocates received a positive response from four Republican legislators, one independent, and one Democrat, declining to name the legislators at this point.

Advocates say they were asked by legislators to write up legislation to legalize marijuana to present in the next legislative session, so that the legislators could sponsor it.

“I’m a mom for marijuana,” Ravert said in her remarks.  “About six years ago my nineteen year-old was pulled out of bed with an assault rifle to her head.”

According to Ravert, her daughter is spending twenty-six years in prison over a one-half gram of marijuana, and a grow light that she says had never been used.

“If people love you and you’re a pot smoker, you need to talk to them,” about the need for policy reform, Ravert said.

“A lot of people didn’t make it out because they were afraid.  People shouldn’t be afraid of their government,” Jonathan Weaver, Deputy Director of Peachtree NORML, said in his remarks.

Peachtree NORML consists of Ravert, Weaver, Sines, Secretary Tanya Burgess, Treasurer Cathy Ryno, Communications Director David Garton, and Outreach Coordinator Esmee Bancroft.

Weaver told APN that the new NORML chapter intends to focus on activism, and that local advocates “went to NORML in DC and discussed it with them.  We were having trouble getting stuff done.”

According to NORML’s website, there are three other NORML chapters in Georgia including Georgia NORML, which is listed as a state chapter; and college campus chapters at the University of Georgia, Athens, and the University of West Georgia.

“They’re all lawyers, we’re the grassroots,” Weaver said regarding Georgia NORML.

Peachtree NORML is listed as a regional chapter.

“We’re trying to find a group of lawyers to write up a law, hopefully to have a bill written up by November.  In two years, we want medicinal marijuana in Georgia,” Weaver said.

Last year, APN reported on the State of Georgia’s publication of an announcement that was seeking doctors for a clinical trials program for medical marijuana, a program which has been on the books but inactive for years.

“We’re trying to raise money to fund the clinical trials because the State won’t fund it,” Rt. Rev. Gregory Karl Davis told APN.

Davis also said he was working on a new public education campaign to teach people who are accused of violating marijuana-related laws, legal methods of how to deny an entry of plea.

“The court has no jurisdiction in a criminal prosecution because marijuana is misscheduled,” as a drug, Davis said.

Davis also said he wants to teach people how to deny an arraignment, but warns that the techniques can only be carried out pro se, or without an attorney.

“I know how to shut these courts down,” Davis said.

Yesterday, May 04, 2012, the Connecticut State Senate approved medical marijuana legislation.  The legislation has already passed the Connecticut House, and Gov. Dannel Malloy has already said he will sign the bill into law.

This will make Connecticut the seventeenth US state, in addition to Washington, DC, to have a medical marijuana law.

The other sixteen states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

New Hampshire’s Republican-led legislature has also passed a medical marijuana bill, although Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, has already promised a veto.  Next week the legislature is set to vote on whether to override the governor’s likely veto.

And in Massachusetts, voters are expected to approve a medical marijuana ballot initiative in November 2012; the state already has decriminalized marijuana altogether.

(END/2012)

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