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Jury Acquits Marijuana Patient Who Admitted To Breaking Georgia Law

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The jury had a decision to make: find the defendant guilty of growing marijuana and possessing “drug-related objects,” which would result in a felony conviction, or deem him innocent.

It’s not an especially unique choice in a Georgia court—except that the defendant, Javonnie McCoy, admitted that he was guilty. McCoy, who said he grew cannabis for personal use to treat chronic headaches he developed after being severely beaten in 2003, was transparent in the courtroom. And it paid off.

The jury heard the case over three days of trial, spent two hours deliberating last week and ultimately found McCoy not guilty on all counts, his attorney Catherine Bernard wrote in a Facebook post. McCoy was acquitted through a process known as jury nullification.

“The jury appreciated his honesty throughout the case—including testimony at trial and statements to police—and recognized that a good, hard working man living a quiet life and not bothering anyone didn’t deserve a felony conviction for his actions,” Bernard said.

Jury nullification isn’t unheard of, but McCoy’s case seemed to symbolically challenge prohibitionist policies that put patients and non-violent users in prison, with a criminal record that could follow them for the rest of their lives. While Georgia allows patients to use CBD extracts for medical purposes if a doctor recommends it, cultivating the plant is a felony that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison.

In other words, even if the judge wanted to give McCoy a pass, their hands would be tied. Only the jury’s leniency and right to nullify allowed the defendant avoid a serious conviction.

“Most people—and even many lawyers—are surprised to learn that juries are not required to follow the law,” Vince Sliwoski, an attorney at the Harris Bricken/Canna Law Group, wrote. “When a jury’s conscience takes over and tells it that someone does not deserve criminal punishment for his or her actions, regardless of the law, the jury can choose to acquit.”

Sliwoski offered an interesting, hypothetical scenario. What if a jury in federal court was tasked with deciding the fate of an individual charged for violating the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)?

“The possibility of jury nullification in a CSA case against a cannabis business is both fascinating and realistic.”

“It is realistic not just because of the favorable polling for cannabis nationwide, but also because these juries would be empaneled in jurisdictions that voted to legalize pot in the first place,” he wrote. “Imagine a hapless U.S. attorney being ordered to charge a popular cannabis farm in Humbolt County, California, which is America’s largest cannabis labor market.”

On a smaller scale, that’s similar to what actually played out in Georgia last week. Jurors exercised their right to judge not simply based on the letter of the law, but also their conscience and understanding of the context of the case. And what happened in the deep red state could be repeated in courtrooms throughout the country, which continues to grow more and more favorable toward marijuana reform.

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h/t FITSNEWS

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Twitter Partners With Feds On Campaign Flagging ‘Marijuana’ Searches While Giving ‘Alcohol’ A Pass

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Twitter is partnering with a federal drug agency to promote substance misuse treatment resources when users of the social media platform search for “marijuana” or certain other substance-related keywords—but no such health warning appears with results for alcohol-connected terms.

In collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Twitter this week began adding a notification above relevant tweets on select drug terms that says, “If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, you are not alone.” It directs users to SAMHSA’s help line and website.

Via Twitter.

Drug policy reform advocates have pointed out that this messaging perpetuates stereotypes about drug use, indicating that any interest in these substances signals that users may have a problem warranting treatment. But it’s also the case that there’s an abundance of reasons that people might enter “marijuana” into a search beyond looking for ways to score some of the product for use, including wanting to follow relevant news on public policy debates about its legalization. And besides, the vast majority of people who consume cannabis are not addicted to or dependent on it and aren’t likely to appreciate the suggestion that they may need professional help.

While promoting substance misuse treatment isn’t necessarily problematic in and of itself, advocates are pushing back about the fact that Twitter chose to peg these notices to cannabis and other currently illegal drugs in particular while it allows alcohol brands to be promoted on its platform. Here’s what happens when you search for “vodka,” for example:

Via Twitter.

Similarly, no warning is displayed alongside searches for “alcohol,” “beer” or “wine.”

For context, according to the World Health Organization, more than three million people die from harmful use of alcohol each year. Meanwhile, even the Drug Enforcement Administration has acknowledged that “no deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported.”

“It is not surprising that SAMHSA would be behind stigmatizing content like this, but it is surprising that a platform like Twitter would allow them to co-opt entire search terms, regardless of a person’s reason for searching for them,” Matt Sutton, director of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment. “It goes back to the same false dichotomy that people who use drugs are struggling and need help verses the reality that most people can use drugs non-problematically, while a small portion of the population tends to struggle with substance use disorder.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to Twitter about the discrepancy when it comes to alcohol-related searches, but a representative declined the opportunity to comment for this story.

“If Twitter is going to add this feature for marijuana then they should absolutely do the same for alcohol, which is a more dangerous substance,” Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.

Interestingly, while the SAMHSA treatment resources are flagged for Twitter users who search for “marijuana,” “cocaine” and “heroin,” searches for “cannabis,” “LSD,” “MDMA,” “psilocybin,” “pills,” “adderrall” and other drug-related terms come with no such invitation to consider getting help—further highlighting the arbitrary nature of the new feature on the social media platform.

This social media policy change comes as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is promoting mandatory drug rehabilitation treatment for people charged with possession crimes.

While the former vice president seems to view the policy as a progressive alternative to incarceration, many drug reform advocates feel mandatory treatment reinforces misconceptions about substance misuse, and they point out that the efficacy of forced rehabilitation programs are scientifically questionable.

“Anybody who gets convicted of a drug crime—not one that is in terms of massive selling, but consumption—they shouldn’t go to prison. They should go to mandatory rehabilitation,” he said last week. “Instead of building more prisons, as I’ve been proposing for some time, we build rehabilitation centers.”

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Drone Drops Hundreds Of Free Bags Of Marijuana In Israel

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Marijuana fell from the sky in Israel on Thursday, with a drone dropping hundreds of small bags of cannabis in the streets of Tel Aviv.

The stunt attracted dozens of people, including some brazen enough to collect the free products from the middle of a busy road as drivers honked at them. A group that goes by the name “Green Drone” apparently made the aerial delivery.

Prior to the drop off, the group posted on the encrypted app Telegram: “It’s time my dear brothers. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the green drone, handing out free cannabis from the sky. Enjoy my beloved brothers, this is your pilot brother, making sure we all get some free love.”

This isn’t a one-off instance of marijuana philanthropy, either. Green Drone plans to continue the “rain of cannabis” project, delivering one kilogram of marijuana broken out into two-gram baggies every week.

But the first drop-off didn’t go without a snag. According to The Jerusalem Post, two people suspected of operating the drone were arrested.

While Israel is an active player in the marijuana research scene, the plant remains illegal, except for under limited medical circumstances. A bill to decriminalize cannabis and another to legalize it for adult use were introduced this year, and the legislature voted in favor of advancing both for a preliminary reading.

Marijuana certainly isn’t new to the region. An ancient biblical tribe in Israel likely used marijuana to produce hallucinogenic effects as part of cultic rituals, according to a recent study that identified cannabis resin on an alter in a shrine built around 750 BCE.

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Photo courtesy of Jean P Mouffe.

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President Carter Talks About His Son Smoking Marijuana At The White House With Willie Nelson

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In a new documentary being released this month, Former President Jimmy Carter (D) discusses the time his son smoked marijuana at the White House with musician Willie Nelson during his administration.

In a trailer released last week, Carter is shown talking about his relationship with the music industry—including his friendship with artists like Nelson and Bob Dylan. At one point, he mentions how Nelson, a cannabis culture icon, disclosed in a biography that he smoked marijuana during a trip to the White House.

“When Willie Nelson wrote his autobiography, he confessed that he smoked pot in the White House and he says that his companion was one of the servants of the White House,” Carter said, as CelebStoner first reported. “It actually was one of my sons.”

Watch the trailer for “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President” below:

In his 1988 book, Nelson described “sitting on the roof of the White House in Washington, DC, late at night with a beer in one hand and a fat Austin Torpedo in the other. ”

“My companion on the roof was pointing out to me the sights and layout of how the streets run in Washington,” he wrote, being coy about who he was with. “I let the weed cover me with a pleasing cloud… I guess the roof of the White House is the safest place to smoke dope.”

It was later revealed that the 1978 cannabis session on top of the executive mansion involved first son Chip Carter.

“Getting stoned on the roof of the White House, you can’t help but turn inward,” Nelson wrote in a subsequent 2015 book. “Certain philosophical questions come to mind, like… How the fuck did I get here?”

During his time in office, Carter spoke in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession and replacing criminal penalties with civil fines. But he was not able to get that policy change enacted.

“Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself,” he said in 1977, adding that marijuana sales should still be strictly criminalized.

Under his administration, the Compassionate Investigational New Drug was established, providing select patients suffering from certain conditions with access to marijuana joints produced with federal authorization.

In 2011, Carter wrote an op-ed for The New York Times that criticized the drug war and stated that U.S. drug policies “are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations.”

He also said the following year that he was “in favor” of state efforts to legalize and regulate cannabis. He told a CNN interviewer at the time that “we can watch and see what happens in the state of Washington for instance, around Seattle, and let the American government and let the American people see does it cause a serious problem or not.”

But in 2013, he reversed that position, saying he opposed legalization.

“I do not favor legalization. We must do everything we can to discourage marijuana use, as we do now with tobacco and excessive drinking,” Carter said, according to the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana. “We have to prevent making marijuana smoking from becoming attractive to young people, which is, I’m sure, what the producers of marijuana…are going to try and do.”

“I hope that Colorado and Washington, as you authorize the use of marijuana, will set up very strict experiments to ascertain how we can avoid the use of marijuana,” he added. “There should be no advertising for marijuana in any circumstances and no driving under the influence. We need to avoid the use of marijuana, particularly among young people.”

The new documentary, “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President,” will roll out with limited theatrical showing beginning on September 9, followed by a physical release a month later. It will then air on CNN on January 3, 2021.

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Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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