The board created earlier this year to advise the Gwinnett County Police Department and county commissioners on policy matters is on the cusp of finalizing its recommendation that Gwinnett leaders decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Gwinnett Police Citizens Advisory Board voted last month to recommend county commissioners to change Gwinnett County Ordinance 66.3, which deals with marijuana possession. It will present the written copy of that resolution, effectively “memorializing” last month’s decision according to board chairman Sean Goldstein, at its June 15 meeting.

The recommended change is to make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a county ordinance violation, punishable by a fine or community service, rather than a criminal act.

“We had already voted, but we still have to send that recommendation to the commission, so obviously we have to memorialize it,” said Goldstein, who is an attorney. “We have to put it in writing basically. We had never done that before since this is our very first recommendation ... so basically what we did is our vice-chair, Marqus Cole, was tasked with memorializing, writing down what our recommendation to the commission was going to be and we’re going to have a discussion regarding the actual written format of the recommendation to the commissioners ...

“It’s just finalizing the decisions that were already made on May 18.”

If the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners adopts the recommended change, the punishment for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would be either a $150 fine or up to 20 hours of community service, according to a copy of the proposed resolution that the Daily Post has obtained.

In essence, it could be seen as being, in a way, like getting a ticket for not wearing a seat belt, Goldstein confirmed. That can have a big impact for people who are caught possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, however.

“That’s where it tries to take this,” Goldstein said. “It’s decriminalizing, lessening the impact that this could have on somebody. With a marijuana charge under this ordinance, it really lessens the severity and impact it could have on their lives.”

The current ordinance states possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor crime with the punishment being up to a year in prison or fine of as much as $1,000 — or possibly both together — or having to do public works service for up to a year. That is essentially the same punishment under a state code section that lists marijuana possession as a criminal offense.

The Gwinnett ordinance change would give police a choice. They could issue the ticket under the county ordinance or they could charge a person with a crime under state law, according to Goldstein.

“(Federal and state marijuana laws) can still apply,” Goldstein said. “It’s up to the officer really to decide — he has discretion to decide — whether to charge under the ordinance, or whether to charge under the state law. The state law does still apply ...

“It doesn’t conflict with them, but it kind of gives the officer an option to charge and to go by the language of the ordinance rather the state law, which is a misdemeanor and does carry greater penalties.”

This also comes at a time when law enforcement is focusing less on possession of small amounts of marijuana because of uncertainty and testing issues related to the state’s hemp farming law that went into effect in Georgia in 2019.

Under that law, the threshold THC concentration level separating hemp from marijuana is 0.3%, with anything less than that level classified as hemp, and therefore not illegal. Prosecutors and law enforcement officials pulled back from pursuing cases centered around possession of small amounts of marijuana at the time, saying the law made it harder to tell what was considered legal, and what was against the law because of THC testing issues.

Fast forward to February of 2021 and county commissioners asked the Police Citizens Advisory Board to research the possibility of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposed resolution states the board solicited input from the county’s law department as it reviewed a proposed change.

Commissioner Kirkland Carden said there had been some interest on the commission before he took office, with Commissioner Ben Ku taking a look at it, but he decided to use the Police Citizens Advisory Board as a way to take a look at the issue and make a recommendation for the Board of Commissioners. Carden favors the proposed change and said it will allow the Gwinnett County Police Department to better allocate manpower.

“It’s 5:55 p.m., so let’s say you get arrested in Duluth, Ga., for a joint and some paraphernalia, so maybe a bong or a grinder or whatever you use,” Carden said. “You get arrested in unincorporated Gwinnett County by one of our Gwinnett County Police officers. By the time it takes that officer to go through your interaction with you, put you in a car, drive down (State Route) 316 to the jail, process you and then get you in holding, that’s more than two hours, especially given this time of day.

“Now, that’s two hours-plus that that officer is removed from the street, when they could be focused on those other issues (such as) property crime, commercial crime, arson, crime with a handgun. These are the issues, these are the crimes that are going up in District 1. These are the crimes that I want to focus on as a commissioner, not ‘Do you have less than an ounce of marijuana?’”

The Gwinnett Police Citizens Advisory Board meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on June 15 in the auditorium at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, which is located at 75 Langley Drive in Lawrenceville. Anyone who cannot attend the meeting in person can watch it live through Gwinnett County government’s Webex system at bit.ly/2SpjDqz.

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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(13) comments

John Thomas

@robertshelton - Part 3

>>>"I don't care if someone wants to ruin their lives smoking drugs,"

People who try to deceive others about marijuana call it "drugs" to make it sound worse, as if their Budweiser were not a far more harmful DRUG. No one ever ruined their life with non-addictive, near harmless marijuana. Since it's not addictive, if there's something someone doesn't like about it, they just stop smoking it.

>>>"I don't want it in the parks or on the roads."

That's a straw man argument. No one is advocating for smoking marijuana anywhere they can't drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. - Further, there's no need to worry about those places. We ban alcohol from parks because it fuels aggression and violence. Marijuana is well known for creating peaceful friendly attitudes.

Marijuana is not alcohol. The preponderance of the research shows marijuana consumption is NOT a significant cause of auto accidents.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, found that while drunken driving dramatically increased the risk of getting into an accident, there was no evidence that using marijuana heightened that risk.

In fact, the report found that drivers who had recently consumed marijuana were no more likely to crash than drivers who were not under the influence of any alcohol or drugs.

Save the propaganda. The people now know better about near harmless marijuana.

robertshelton

I'm reading the 2017 "Marijuana-Impaired Driving A Report to Congress" from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which finds that:

- As previously discussed there is evidence that marijuana use impairs psychomotor skills, divided attention, lane tracking, and cognitive functions

- odds ratio for THC was 1.25, representing a significantly elevated risk of crashing by about 1.25 times or 25 percent

The lies from the pro-marijuana lobby are really disgraceful and harmful to our society. Please stop spreading your lies and propaganda. No one wants impaired drivers on the road, with pills, alcohol or drugs. Don't be a drug addict.

John Thomas

Whoops. You forgot the rest of those odds ratios.

To start with, totally sober is an odds ration of 1.0. Which makes sense. It just represents itself. As you say marijuana is elevated, but NOT "significantly"

The odds ration for alcohol is 16, which makes it 16 times more impaired than sober. - If I recall, correctly the odds ratio for cocaine is something like 5.0, which makes it 5 times more impairing than sober.

As you can NOW see, an odds ratio of 1.25 is as near insignificant as you can get, being only 1.25 times the impairment. - This is such a tiny difference that it actually falls within the margin of error and so is really completely insignificant.

This is the kind of deception you prohibitionists pull all the time.

John Thomas

@robertshelton - Part 2

>>>"The marijuana lobby bandies about these lies"

Oh, brother. The gold standard of marijuana research is found in the major government commissions on marijuana, like President Nixon's Shafer Commission of 1972. They all concluded marijuana is not addictive, is less harmful than alcohol, and should be regulated as is alcohol. The reports of all these major commissions can be read online.

>>>"while calling legitimate science fake from the government or "big pharma"

You mean the Reefer Madness propaganda. They've been pumping it out since marijuana prohibition was fraudulently enacted in 1937. It's been a joke for decades. Polls show 69 percent of all Americans want to end the fraudulently enacted marijuana prohibition. More than 90 percent approve of medical marijuana. 18 states and D.C. have completely ended the sick witch-hunt. Many more will soon follow. It's clear we are ending the fraudulent marijuana prohibition, just as we ended the misguided alcohol prohibition.

Big pharma, does indeed, fight against ending marijuana prohibition. In just one initiative for legalization in Arizona in 2016, Insys Therapeutics donated $500,000 to the anti-legalization forces.

robertshelton

The gold standard of the drug abuse apologists is from 50 years ago because it panders do their agenda. Modern studies are not consistent with that outdated information

No, I'm not talking about an 80 year old propaganda film why do you people keep dragging that up?

John Thomas

Why would a Republican president (Nixon) who commissioned the research, "pander to smokers' agenda?" - That's simply nonsense. - In fact, Nixon was sure the Shafer Commission was going to find all sorts of harms of marijuana. When it didn't, he tried to force Governor Shafer to change the results. He wouldn't.

So Nixon just disregarded the massive research project. Instead, Nixon RAMPED UP the fraudulent prohibition into a moronic "war on drugs." -- His Domestic Policy Advisor, John Ehrlichman stated: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying,” Ehrlichman continued.

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing them heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news."

"Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Because so many more people consume marijuana than heroin, the tool of marijuana prohibition has been far more successful at oppressing minorities and politically active youth. - Those who support, or engage in, this insane war on marijuana consumers, are complicit with Nixon in his crime against humanity!

We keep bringing up the crazy Reefer Madness propaganda film, because the lurid, false ideas it contained are still pushed by people like you, as I have shown.

John Thomas

@robertshelton - For some reason, I see no "reply" button after your last post. You say:

>>>" it's well known to be addictive"

That's doubly false since marijuana is not addictive and so, of course, the falsehood can't be well-known. Addiction involves withdrawal symptoms that are so severe, they compel continuous use to be avoided. Marijuana doesn't have them, so is not addictive. That's one of the many things consumers like about it.

>>>"and impact cognition"

Yeah. It's called getting high. That's why people consume it. But it doesn't impair thinking. It enhances it. That's why marijuana is so popular in the creative professions.

>>>"and short term memory."

Only for a brief part of the short 2 to 4 hour high, and only in some ways. It's an effect consumers don't mind and plan for. Research shows there is no lasting effect on the brain.

robertshelton

Uhhmmmm sorry but yes marijuana is habit forming and addictive. It does not "enhance" thinking if you "think better" while high it's because you're a drug addict.

"The extent to which long-term use of marijuana (either for medical or recreational purposes) produces persistent cognitive problems is not known."

John Thomas

Just stating something does not make it so. Prohibitionists have a hard time accepting that truth. Again, addiction involves withdrawal symptoms that are so severe, they compel continuous use to be avoided. Marijuana doesn't have them so is not addictive. -- Just the repetition of an enjoyable activity does not create addiction. Otherwise, we'd all be addicted to baseball, watching movies or eating watermelon.

Mankind has been consuming marijuana for, at least, 4,000 years with no problems. It is the most studied plant on Earth. If it were going to "produce cognitive problems," it would have been well detected and documented by now.

It wasn't. On the contrary. Science and widespread experience have shown marijuana has no significant harms.

Carl Sagan was a world-renowned astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science educator. He had a brilliant career and was beloved by the English-speaking world for his ground-breaking, educational TV program, "Cosmos." He smoked marijuana recreationally every day. He said:

"The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world,” is the way that Carl Sagan describes the current legal situation in the world with respect to marijuana. Sagan said that marijuana inspired him creatively, giving him access to a library of thoughts and ideas that were otherwise unavailable to him.

"The devastating insights achieved when high are real insights... I can remember one occasion... one idea led to another, and at the end of about an hour of extremely hard work I found I had written eleven short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical, and human biological topics... From all external signs, such as public reactions and expert commentary, they seem to contain valid insights. I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures, and in my books."

robertshelton

So now the parks will stink of drugs and failure, as will my community pool and neighborhood. Another reason to move.

John Thomas

That's amazing prejudice. - Since science and widespread experience show marijuana is not addictive and has no significant harms, your drug, Budweiser, is what is prone to inflict "failure." - Alcohol is the most destructive drug on the planet, killing more than 100,000 people each year, in the U.S. alone.

NO ONE has ever died from consuming marijuana, in all of recorded history. - Millions of people love the fragrance of marijuana, obviously. - Most of the rest don't mind. - It sure beats REALLY noxious fumes that are actually harmful, like the smoke and fumes from your outdoor cookouts and the exhaust and noise pollution of your lawnmower, cars, etc.

Every person who chooses near harmless marijuana over addictive, very harmful alcohol, improves their health significantly - as well as the lives of their family and community.

robertshelton

Nah, it's well known to be addictive and impact cognition and short term memory. The marijuana lobby bandies about these lies while calling legitimate science fake from the government or "big pharma"

I don't care if someone wants to ruin their lives smoking drugs, I don't want it in the parks or on the roads.

MarvinGardens

A good start! Now, can we get legalization in Georgia please?

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