Lt. Governor Candidate Kwanza Hall on 420 Day and the state of unfair and unpopular criminalization of marijuana in Georgia
Atlanta, Ga. – While many Americans are celebrating and wishing one another a happy 420 Day, unfortunately in Georgia there is not much to be happy about.
There are 37 states in America where cannabis is legal either medically, for adult use, or both. But Georgia is one of only 19 states where simple possession can still land you in jail. Possession of one ounce or less carries a maximum penalty of up to one year of imprisonment. Possessing more than an ounce is considered a felony and can result in up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Yet 71% of Georgia residents support making cannabis legal and the state’s cannabis policies are remarkably out of step with the opinion of our citizens.
Black Georgians and white Georgians use cannabis at a nearly identical rate, but Black Georgians are three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. Research performed by my council office showed more than 90% of the individuals arrested in Atlanta for possession of one ounce or less of cannabis were Black.
Appallingly, these arrests continue 50 years after the release of a report issued by the Shafer Commission, that found personal cannabis possession was not a danger to society and the laws criminalizing cannabis possession were too harsh to apply. The Commission therefore recommended that possession for personal use not be a criminal offense. You may not know about the Shafer Commission nor its report that was issued in 1972, and for good reason. Its findings were buried by the Nixon administration, never to see the light of day.
We can only make Georgia better for all Georgians when we stop unfairly incarcerating them for actions that pose no danger to society. When I am elected, Georgians can count on me to work with Senate leadership to champion legislation to decriminalize marijuana in 2023. We will chart a clear and immediate path to equitable legalization thereafter.