No Freedom in Atlanta’s Freedom Park for Cannabis Activists
(APN) ATLANTA — Neither soaking rain nor the lack of permit from the City of Atlanta prevented advocates for the legalization of cannabis–commonly known as marijuana–from speaking out at the Great Atlanta Pot Festival 2013.
Paul Cornwell, Atlanta Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition (CAMP), and the festival organizer, was turned down for a permit to hold the festival at Hurt Street and Euclid Avenue in the Inman Park area.
He was earlier denied a permit to hold the festival in Freedom Park.
The Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court against the City, challenging the City’s practice of deeming Freedom Park as “passive park,” where festivals are not allowed.
Cornwell argued that the City is violating citizens’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the Constitution of the US, according to a copy of what appears to be a draft of the lawsuit, posted to the Creative Loafing Atlanta Fresh Loaf blog.
The complaint argued its First Amendment free speech claim by stating that the City allowed camping, but not festivals, thus allowing one type of free speech but not another based upon the content of the speech. The complaint did not specify its Fourteenth Amendment claims.
Federal District Court Judge Steve Jones on Friday, April 26, 2013, denied a Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed by CAMP.
“The Court ruled that the city did not violate CAMP’s right to free speech by denying a festival permit. The city does not allow any outdoor festivals to occur inside of Freedom Park because of restrictions by the State regarding how the Park may be used. The Court agreed that the city’s actions were lawful and did not discriminate against CAMP because of its message,” the City of Atlanta said in a statement.
“Although the city did not allow a festival permit, the City granted a permit to CAMP to conduct its ‘Global Cannabis March’ through Freedom Park on May 4, 2013, and has allowed this march through Freedom Park the past six years. The city will allow CAMP to hold its Great Atlanta Pot Festival on the streets next to Freedom Park on May 4, 2013,” the City said.
FESTIVAL GOES ON
Although the music part of the festival was cancelled due to rain and permit, the speakers continued to promote the benefits of cannabis at the Little Five Points Community Center. Another pot festival with music will be rescheduled this summer.
The Great Atlanta Pot Festival is an annual event held in conjunction with the Global Cannabis March. It began in 1999, and hundreds of thousands of people have participated in over 750 different cities worldwide since 1999.
The purpose of these annual Cannabis Festivals is to educate the public and elected officials to the medical benefits of cannabis and to pass legislation to end its prohibition in the US.
One speaker shared with APN their upcoming cannabis strategy for next year’s General Assembly.
“This past Session, we lobbied committee members to change possession penalties to misdemeanors that would not involve jail time. Not much was changed as far as sentencing guidelines,” Al Herman with the Georgia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and the Green Party of Georgia, told APN.
“We have a few potential sponsors to introduce two bills next session to decriminalize and to legalize cannabis. We don’t find that decriminalizing goes far enough because it still allows for black marketing and illegal distribution. It doesn’t make any sense to just decriminalize possession when people still go to illegal sources for the supply of cannabis,” Herman said.
Several State legislators, mostly Democrats, have committed to co-sponsoring marijuana-related legislation, if a Republican sponsors the bill. At one point advocates said they had a pair of legislators, one Republican and one Democrat, willing to sponsor the bill, but the Republican backed out saying he did not believe it would go anywhere.
Several state legislators who have expressed their support for medical marijuana in APN candidate questionnaires–such as State Reps. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta), and Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta)–have failed to take action thus far. Thomas told APN it was not something she would want to sponsor at this time.
An expert cannabis advocate explained how Atlanta could go about setting up a Compassionate Use Act like California did in 1996.
“The first step in Atlanta is to get medical patients with autoimmune diseases together with a few doctors and one compassionate city council member to say this medicine [cannabis] is necessary and I want this in my district,” Ed Rosenthal, a cannabis horticulturist, author, and advocate said.
“There should be a cannabis dispensary for people with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy. There is no medicine better for these patients than cannabis. Who is going to be such a coward as to let medical patients suffer?” Rosenthal said.
73 year-old Elvy Musikkar is one of only four federally supplied medical marijuana smokers left in the government’s Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program. She has been receiving government-supplied cannabis since October 1988 for glaucoma.
She credits cannabis for saving her vision, but laments that prohibition of cannabis has criminalized millions of citizens. “The war on pot has been a war on our own people,” Musikkar said.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MEDICAL CANNABIS AND HEMP
Before the 1937 prohibition, cannabis was the standard treatment in the US for epilepsy, migraine, arthritis, glaucoma, insomnia, menstrual cramps, labor pains, and many other conditions.
Cannabis has been used therapeutically for over five thousand years. In China it was a medication for rheumatism, gout, and malaria. Its use spread from China to India and then to North Africa and reached Europe at least as early as 500 AD.
In 1545 the Spanish brought marijuana to the New World. The English introduced it in Jamestown in 1611 where it became a major commercial crop alongside tobacco and was grown as a source of fiber.
Marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and was prescribed for various conditions including labor pains, nausea, rheumatism, and migraines. Its use as an intoxicant was also commonplace from the 1850s to the 1930s.
A campaign conducted in the 1930s by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics sought to portray marijuana as a powerful, addictive substance that would lead users into narcotics addiction.
Harry J. Anslinger was named director of the Bureau. He was a racist and said that the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes White women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others,” Anslinger said to during a US Senate hearing in 1937.
Anslinger later teamed up with William Randolph Hearst, owner of a huge chain of newspapers, the Hearst Newspapers.
Hearst had invested heavily in the timber industry and didn’t want to see the development of hemp paper in competition. He lost 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa, a Mexican revolutionary who seized haciendas on behalf of the poor; so Hearst hated Mexicans.
Hearst used his newspapers to tell lurid lies about Mexicans and to demonize marijuana which sold newspapers, making him rich. Even the use of the term marijuana, instead of cannabis, was purposeful, in order to make it sound more Mexican.
Hearst and Anslinger were then supported by Dupont chemical company and various pharmaceutical companies in the effort to outlaw cannabis.
They took Hearst’s newspaper stories to US Congress as proof that cannabis was a dangerous drug that caused minorities to commit crimes.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug, that is, having the relatively highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use.
History shows that it was racism, greed, and yellow journalism propaganda from powerful individuals that classified cannibals as dangerous and lobbied Congress to make it illegal.
Most people in the US no longer believe the myths about cannabis. A recent Fox News poll found that 85 percent of people surveyed approved of legally using medical marijuana with a physician’s recommendation.
As of today, eighteen states and DC have enacted medical marijuana laws. Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana.
There are currently seven federal bills dealing with liberalizing marijuana policy currently in the House of Representatives.
HR 499, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013, is sponsored by US Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) with 15 cosponsors.
US Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) is seriously looking at HR 499, according to a statement from his office. According to activist Sharon Ravert, Johnson met in recent weeks in his DC office with Ebony Knight, a Georgia activist who was attending an Americans for Safe Access conference in DC.
Johnson said he is concerned about pushback from religious organizations in his district, according to Ravert.
HR 501, the Marijuana Tax Equity Act of 2013, sponsored by US Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), has seven cosponsors.
HR 689, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, sponsored by Blumenauer, has 18 cosponsors.
HR 710, the Truth in Trials Act, sponsored by US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), has twelve cosponsors.
HR 784, the States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, sponsored by US Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), has six cosponsors.
HR 1523, the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, sponsored by US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), has 15 cosponsors.
HR 1635, the National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Act of 2013, sponsored by US Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), has five cosponsors.
All these bills have been referred to House subcommittees.