Should Georgia change its marijuana laws? Residents react
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Georgia’s marijuana laws may be challenged, following President Biden’s executive order on Thursday. The president is pushing states to pardon those convicted of marijuana possession.
Georgia is one of 19 states that still impose jail time for simple possession of marijuana. State representatives say making it organized and beneficial must come first.
The Federal Government currently has marijuana as a scheduled one substance, classifying it as more serious than a fentanyl charge.
“Honestly, I feel as though people that are locked up right now shouldn’t be locked up for the small amounts of marijuana because it’s on the same level as heroin and heroin kills more people,” Georgia resident, Paris Gordon said.
Some who spoke to WALB said they don’t understand why lawmakers treat it so harshly when you could travel 10 miles, one state over, and it be legal.
“A lot of times, it’s unpopular to legalize something that’s been considered bad or wrong for so long. So, with a lot of things that we see come forward, it takes southern states a while because sometimes they try to legislate personal morality without really respecting the views and the wishes of the people they represent,” State Representative for the 177th District Valdosta, Dexter Sharper said.
Several people told WALB they had at least one thing to say about it helping medically.
“I know people with health problems, and it helps them. The small amount of marijuana helps them,” Georgia resident, Ayanna Smith said.
“It helps people with anxiety, with coping with depression, many of other things also,” Georgia resident, Savanna Wilford said.
“I know people that struggle with anxiety, and this also helps with their condition,” Gordon, said.
Some Georgians we spoke to say they have loved ones who are looked at worse than sex offenders because of small possession charges.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, it cost over $20,000 to house one inmate in Georgia.
“I don’t think it’s worth, you know, keeping somebody in jail for small possessions around marijuana. Our taxpayer dollars could be used better somewhere else,” Sharper said.
Rep. Dexter Sharper said he agrees with President Biden, but only for simple possession charges.
“I felt like that would be a really great relief. Especially for the people that are being accused for maybe a gram of weed and being in jail. It’s just unreasonable,” Wilford said.
According to NORML, a group that pushes for more lenient marijuana laws, in 2018, more than 25,000 people in Georgia were arrested for marijuana possession, more than 10,000 in 2019, and 2020, those numbers dropped significantly to a little over 6,000.
“Your number goes down just because of the fact that you know officers are doing just the little citations and the people are paying the fines and that’s pretty much it. You know a lot of officers are not pursuing this like they used to either,” Sharper said.
Many lives and families have been turned upside over possession charges or use of marijuana because they’re considered convicts. Some lawmakers feel our tax-paying dollars could be going to something more useful.
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