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Marijuana: Georgia Grand Jury Foreman Says Legalize It

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #542)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

Grand juries are charged with evaluating potential crimes presented to them by prosecutors and deciding whether indictments are merited. The grand jury empanelled in March in Chatham County, Georgia, did just that, delivering numerous indictments for drugs and other criminal offenses.

But grand juries and their foreman also have the opportunity to speak their minds about what they have observed while serving. The Chatham County grand jury did so in its final report to Superior Court Judge Perry Brannen.

Its observations and recommendations were not surprising. "A high percentage of our cases were drug-related and a high percentage were repeat offenders," the grand jury noted. Authorities should "institute more effective methods of drug treatment and rehabilitation aimed at minimizing repeat offenders" and "as far as possible, use stricter or more effective methods of punishment," the jurors recommended.

While the grand jury's recommendations were pretty standard stuff, grand jury foreman Gordon Varnadoe used the opportunity to call for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana sales in his personal recommendations. Varnadoe also called for the legalization of prostitution.

"It is my considered and strong opinion that marijuana should be legal, controlled, and taxed," Varnadoe wrote. "There is no evidence that it is a 'gateway drug' that leads to other drugs. It is not found to be present in cases of domestic violence, highway fatalities, or death caused by consumption. This can be completely turned around to change from a tax burden and expense to a source of great revenue."

The grand jury reports are not binding, and a grand jury or foreman using them as a platform to call for drug law reform is rare. But it has happened before.

As Eric Sterling of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation reminds, drug policy reform has also been on the mind of grand juries in at least one large American city, Baltimore. In 1995, a city of Baltimore grand jury issued a report that studied drug law enforcement during its September 1994 term. While that grand jury said "legalization is not an acceptable solution" to the larger drug problem, it also recommended that "consideration be given to decriminalizing marijuana" and "medicalization may be the best solution for managing addiction and drug proliferation."

By the summer of 2003, another Baltimore grand jury was ready to go further. In its report, that grand jury called for the "regulated distribution" of now illegal drugs -- not just marijuana. That grand jury report helped lay the groundwork for hearings in the Maryland Senate in 2003 where drug reformers got an opportunity to lay out the rationale for reform.

While usually considered the domain of prosecutors -- "a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor told it to," goes the old saw -- grand juries have a chance to speak their minds in their reports, and perhaps lead the way to a reconsideration of current policies. There is as yet no sign that the Chatham County grand jury foreman's recommendations will lead to similar reflection, but it is a start. As drug policy reform makes its long march through the institutions of society, the grand jury should not be forgotten.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

through jury nulification .prosicuters had better find somebody else to pick on as thier days of trumped up cases for marijuana are over it should be phisicaly dangerous for them to sugest making cases involving marijuana wtf.

Fri, 07/11/2008 - 9:39am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm Still over whelmed at the Blind & Profiteers that lead the judical systems on Criminal treatment of Marijuana users...recreational ..Or prescribed...3.2 million a cost of over a billon dollars a Week ...just to house them...What The Fluck??
The Plant (Weed) has been around for ten thousand years...has never directly killed anyone...I know folks that smoke it Regularly ...for 50 years...I don't know to many that have served that long with alcohol..tobacco..or the Worst...Legal...Prescribed drugs...Lets go back to 1936...& follow the foot steps...of the destroyers...Hearst & Angslinger...How could America be so Blind??
OPPS...We went blind with the bush I guess some things haven't change...Lets Move Forward Folks....Our far beyond my kids

Fri, 07/11/2008 - 11:47am Permalink
jamescrowder (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

i agree pot should be legal!
its a plant how can you even say its illegal?
it would bring in more money to the usa!!
and we would not have to pay to keep potheads in jail!
if you have evr smoked pot you dont say oh i wanna go kill someone!!
you would say i love you man.or pass the chips

Wed, 07/07/2010 - 10:09pm Permalink
Demond (not verified)

In reply to by jamescrowder (not verified)

Man i don't smoke and i wouldn't even legalize it because it will be to much confusion with people and with stores. People will be walking in there high as hell and yes of course there gone tax it hard because they know that dumb people will still pay for it. Next, In the state of Georgia growing your own weed will be a hustle and the government want like that either so they will try to send you to jail.

Thu, 11/18/2010 - 11:35am Permalink
Dennis paul smith jr (not verified)

In reply to by Demond (not verified)

Ok dumb people i wont bow to you so called jesus christ

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 8:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

What really amazes me is that as a whole, we the people of the united states allow our government to give power to private citizens to TRAMPLE our constitutional rights! The 5th amendment of the constitution says that we cannot, as citizens, be forced to incriminate ourselves. However, on a daily basis in this country, americans are forced to give their urine or blood for testing for drugs. Drugs are illegal substances in the united states, and you are held in jeopardy of losing your job, or other, worse things, if you test positive. As I see it, that is forcing you to incriminate yourself, don't you think? Now is that NOT a violation of your right AGAINST self incrimination? Wake up america, your personal liberties are being stolen from you daily.

Those who would give up their essential liberties to achieve a measure of security, deserve neither - Benjamin Franklin, Congress, 1776

Fri, 07/11/2008 - 1:45pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

What security? The world is no more secure now, because of the Iraq situation, than it was before. The same can be said in regards to the phony drugwar. It's not about security anyway. It's all about $$$. But Ben was right, we are undeserving. Yet ,we deserve what we get.Which is ,in all likelyhood,more of the same..".for change", you know.

Sun, 07/13/2008 - 10:53am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The Grand Jury Foreman needs to be made an honorary member of LEAP, since he's views are exactly the same; legalize, control and regulate. Someone should get to this guy and "induct" him.

Mon, 07/14/2008 - 8:52am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Marijuana has never hurt anybody, at all.
You can have your deadly alcohol and nicotine, but we can't have our harmless, therapeutic marijuana.
What a big "fuck you".

Mon, 07/21/2008 - 5:51am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that legalizing marijuana is a good choice. Over 18 million people are already doing it and we are wasting too much money on it.

We are spending billions of dollars on the war of drugs. We are not focusing on real crimes that will potentially hurt our economy. In Ontario Canada marijuana is legal.

Many people will argue that marijuana is bad, but so is alcohol and cigarretes. Alcohol is our leading cause of motor vehicle deaths, and cigarettes cause cancer, leading to death. Marijuana is a drug that many people think will make you hallucinate, but it really isnt. It puts you in a different atmosphere making you happy.

Also, if we were to sell marijuana in stores the government would be able to tax it and fund money for projects needed in society. Money would be able to be funded for schools, libraries, bridges, etc.

This is my personal opinion on the legalization of marijuana.

Wed, 11/12/2008 - 1:30am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

marijuana is gods gift to earth. it makes people happy it takes pain away it gives you appetite it helps depression i know i lost my son last year an weed helped me through it. our economy is so messed up so if they legalized marijuana it would open up thousands of job opportunities it would help stimulate the economy so much because you would need people to grow it an people to transport it an businesses to distribute it. taxes could be imposed benifiting everyone so even if you didnt smoke marijuana you could still benifit from it. crime rate would drop an the economy would be boosted an people would be happy. so whats the problem?

Mon, 02/09/2009 - 12:54am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Police in Georgia have gotten carried away. Everytime I am pulled over by officers they surround me sometimes with guns drawn. And they scream and yell at me and search through my car and personal items tooth and nail. Not to mention many more disturbing things I have witnessed. It has made me and some friends so fearful of driving Georgia highways that we have sold our vehicles and stopped driving. This is terrible when an honest person cannot feel safe to go out on the roads because officers are so aggresive about finding drugs they literally scare the hell out of average people who do not know what to expect. In some instances the officers act so desperate to find drugs that some would wander if they might even plant drugs. This is a horrible setting and I wander what is the benefit of fighting a drug war when the very fight itself destroys our own country? God bless the USA and lets please try to find a better way to deal with these community health problems.

Sun, 05/31/2009 - 12:01am Permalink
Nytefyre (not verified)

Kudos to Gordon Varnadoe for making the most of his opportunity to get the message out that Marijuana should be legalized in Georgia! Solid and well-put was his statement!

Wed, 11/18/2009 - 8:31pm Permalink
hampton (not verified)

In reply to by Nytefyre (not verified)

i got who evers back on that it ant pot that kills people its alcohol and nicoltine so all of us pot smokers need to go and get it legalize in ga i strongly agree that pot would give a lot of people in ga a job

Wed, 03/10/2010 - 6:12pm Permalink
Anonymous98798 (not verified)

If you have a medical need for marijuana use then why limit it? You have tobacco, liquor, Oxycodone, and much more harful stuff already on the RX Shelves, Why are the poloticians not listening to the doctors? What supports your arguements other than what you have been negitively looking for. I am sure if we dug deep enough into why we should not reelect you then we would find plenty, my point is, if it does the job, and it is a lesser evil then why would Washington DC make it happen for them? Do you think you have ever won an election because you were a chosen lesser evil, I promise no candidate has a 100% approval rate, and it is the older society that is pushing for ignorance when they are supposed to be smarter.. I am a business owner and diabetic, I am not depressed and NEVER smoke around children or family. I am clean cut non hippy stereo type and can pass a drug test right now. But when I have smoked marijuana and I have for many years ( I am in my mid 30’s) and never had a heart attack and never had anytype of negative reaction. Matter of fact ( PROVEN PERSONAL FACT) I am diabetic, it lowers my blood sugars from 250 to les than 100 in 3 hours, I only smoke at night and I have actually been ordered off all diabetic meds, and origionally I was insulin dependant, so what say you about that? Harmful I think NOT!

Ignorance is harmful, even if you personally do not agree to this I know for a fact all diabetics will gain from its use, people just hate what it represents, I agree that alot of people that use it for no medical resoning could increase their exposures to certain ailements but as a medically prescribed drug you should weight the benefiets again.

Marijuana should always be controlled just as alcohol and cigarettes, decriminalzing it would only free up the govt to pursue harsher crimes like Murderes, and Rapists, and Thieves, and CRAK HEADS (meth addicts) they really have not put much thought into leaglization of marijuana in GA, just as it ok to go to a bar on sunday and drink but you cant buy liquor and take it home.. any other day of the week you can buy liquor but sunday, so why is that? DUI ’s are rampant on sundays, ask any local enforcement officer, that $$ day for them, so we are encouraging DUI’s on sunday by not allowing purchase of liquor or beer.

Marijuana is by far the very least of our worries as far as drugs go, it has less of a side effect than a hangover, you are more likely to be drunk and try new things as far as gateway things than marijuana. You have the technology to find out if soone is DUI mor marijuana and alcohol so prosicute it the same way. Do not deny people the treatments they need if they could eliminate the symptoms of diabetes or migrains, or several other case studies. Several poloticians use it, have been found using it, and hav openly admitted to using it, so why the big frown upon its use? Simply put whats wrong with being happy? Society has an opportunity to allow it to be controlled and tax it. I am sure everyone knows somone who smokes and hides it cause of the laws, so why do we not as a people give the govt somthing better to waste our tax dollars on? We could help clear the national debt just with this alone, there are so many reasons why people should look into this again and allow its law makers to pass a law that allows it. Common sence tells you there as many if not more than half that smoke. The law will not stop the determined, so why should it be prosecuted? I mean for real people what you know about it is it illegal and thats about it, when they passed the law to criminalize it they did not have any research in the fields of medicinal use and if they did they sure did not have the technology to back up their arguements. We now do and I think its about time to reopen our minds to the idea that we could have been wrong in making it illegal.

FYI Washington DC and 15 other states and our president have all declared it good for medicine, so why can’t Georgia?

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Thu, 01/21/2010 - 1:31am Permalink
ciano (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous98798 (not verified)

it should be legalized with no limits. i am high 24/7, going to work(with some clear eyes), the gym, jogging, soccer, basketball, drive...and it is all better. the only bad thing is watching scary movies. i get intense nightmares if i go to sleep high

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 4:09am Permalink
legalizenow (not verified)

For the last 15 years I have worked in the field of medical social work and hospice care. The number of older or disabled patients who suffer needlessly because marijuana is illegal is inexcusable. For elderly or disabled persons suffering from intractable pain medical marijuana is a cost effective, compassionte alternative to narcotic medications. I've also worked as a substance abuse counselor and I can tell you that the danger of narcotic dependence is more of a concern than any I can imagine with marijuana use.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 6:38pm Permalink
Jack (not verified)

While the case looks strong to get marijuana legalized in Georgia, we need honest non bypassed opinions stated. Not the ones of a 16 year old that stays baked 24/7, or people who cant form a decent sentence. Maybe that's why the drug stays illegal to begin with.

While the points to legalize it medically are strong and legitimate. The point of taking already handicapped Georgia police officers off of the hunt for marijuana, is an even better idea. Lets take a stab at the police department as a whole for a second. Its easy to bust a pot head, because he is typically passive and non resistant to begin with. While the hardened criminals elude our officers with such cunning techniques as hiding at moms house, or my favorite burring the body. Easy busts bring in more dollars to their department plain and simple. When the highway patrol runs low on money, they up the amount of speeding tickets they deal out. Same with narcotics departments. While these small towns in Georgia have these elaborate narcotics teams with cutting edge equipment, and for what? To bust a pot heads.

In the same light we all know a huge amount of reasons marijuana should be legalized. I think its more important to stress as to why it is not. In reality its small minded people making old time decisions. Just as prohibition took affect from small minded scared government controlling us into bootleg and speak easy's. The same has started with this. Only i don't think anyone ever came up with a medical reason to legalize alcohol. Yet they did it. Why you ask. Because the government realized they couldn't control it.

Now to share my angle on the issue. I do not smoke, my job is too important to throw it away on testing hot for marijuana. Now if it were legal, yes i would be right there with you. As for now though i stand on the side lines waiting. But i had to say something. It seems every advocate for the legalization of marijuana either smokes and makes an ass of himself on here, and sets the cause back a couple of decades. As a result law makers and other people see this and say, yes marijuana makes you brain dead. So this perspective i hope will show that a normal non smoking person wants to say yes. Not only because medically it can relieve a huge amount of pain, as well as profit from the drug companies who put out a drug that has worse side effects than the original problem you have originally. Imagine no more Paxel or  Ridalin. What a wonderful world it would be. We can go into what those greedy bastards at the legal drug companies have to say later, and why they hate the idea of legal marijuana.

I think I've wasted enough of my life telling you why we need to catch up and legalize it, but in reality the pros over weight the cons by far. It really is a no brainier.

Wed, 07/28/2010 - 2:53pm Permalink
Irving (not verified)

I say legalize and sell and have control over for either a cinical use of it or the use in coffe shops.. its jst a thought..

Thu, 07/29/2010 - 5:07pm Permalink
Destiny (not verified)

I have depression problems, and pot is the only thing that seems to truly help. I'm currently on two different types of medication for depression. Honestly, they dont seem to do much. However, pot helps significantly.

People say pot makes you lazy or what not, i also to believe this to be false. I seem to get more done, and pay more attention to detail. 

I do believe that excessive pot use is not good, but neither is excessive alcohal use. Neither is over eating or what not. There is nothing wrong with pot, its a plant, it doesnt have chemical is in it. Legalizing it would aslo reduce crime in many ways. Not just dealers, i believe in many many different crimes. Something that helps people deal with aids, depression, pain, cancer... ect. how in the world could that be bad?

if alcohal, is legal, than why in the hell is weed illegal? blows my mind. weed doesnt cause near as much damage, people dont seem to be abusive, kill people driving, or kill themselves with it. please legalize weed.

Sat, 11/27/2010 - 4:19pm Permalink
Mr. Bogart (not verified)

Here is a email that I had sent to all Georgia's senators just today, see as follows:


Regardless how one person my feel about the legalization, decriminalization, and the reclassification of marijuana and hemp, let the American people decide. However we have spoken already!
As of right now, 53% of Americans support this caus...e. That is higher than the support of Barrack Obama nationwide, which we all know, had won 2 consecutive Primary Elections.

If only the Americans, which doesn't support marijuana and hemp reform, they should do their own research on the matter and I am sure, a lot of Americans will change their minds respectively.

This has been one of the most detrimental lies, our Federal Government, has created to poison the minds of the American people! Not only have they lied about their research in the past, they still continue to lie about how good this drug is and how less harmful, than tobacco and alcohol combined.

People want to argue the point of how young Americans, under the legal age would be affected. What they don't say is, that marijuana is and has been, available to the young, from gangs, drug dealers, and cartels for the past 40 years.

Our Federal Government has destroyed many lives by, arresting, incarcerating non violent, hard working Americans, that has caused them to lose their children, lost their jobs, lost their families and have prevented them from getting work due to their arrest records. This is the injustice of our Federal government and not because a lot of Americans smoke weed.

Again, what the people don't know is that our Federal Government has impeded us from growing as a nation. How you may ask? It costs the taxpayers $1 Billion just to house marijuana offenders and since Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, those states have generated more than $160 - $250 Million in revenue per year.

Now sit back and think, if all 50 states do the same, and say, $50 Million per state, generated the same amount, that number would $2.5 Trillion per year combined and not counting how much more would be generated from hemp reform, that would be an additional $427 Million and if you add in hemp for the sake of bio-fuels, not only would we save from importing foreign oil, we would generate, millions if not Billions more per year, FACT.

Just think how much more our Federal Government would save.





Tue, 06/18/2013 - 10:33pm Permalink

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