Marijuana is an interesting subject and has been fascinating to watch evolve in regards to public opinion. Currently, 67% of the US population approve of making recreational marijuana legal while 32% oppose. The percentage of people who believe it should be legal for medical reasons is 92% compared to 8% opposed. HERE is the link to Pew Research center’s long term polling. This polling breaks the data down into things like age and party affiliation. HERE is another poll from Gallup showing very similar results. This chart shows Pew’s trend lines going back to 1969:
I am writing this post because I am curious how some of you feel about our city’s marijuana policy. Currently, our city charter says possession of less than an ounce can result in up to $1,000 fine and 60 days in jail. I have copied the code section regarding Marijuana in green and our code section dealing with penalties in orange/blue. I know that $1,000 and 2 months in jail would have a significant impact on most people I know. The question is if this is too much of a punishment, not enough, or just right.
Sec. 46-1. – Use of marijuana. (link)
(b) Jurisdiction of municipal court.
(1)Where a person is charged with the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana within the corporate limits of the city, the municipal court has jurisdiction, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 36-32-6 to try and dispose of such cases.
(d)Penalties. Unless another penalty is expressly provided by law, every person convicted of a violation of this section shall be punished as provided in section 1-11; however, the total length of sentence for imprisonment and total length of public service work shall not exceed one year.
Sec. 1-11. – General penalty, continuing violations. (link)
(a)Whenever in this Code or in any ordinance of the city any act is prohibited or is made or declared to be unlawful or an offense, or whenever in this Code or any ordinance the doing of any act is required and the failure to do such act is declared to be unlawful, and no specific penalty is provided; and unless otherwise provided by state law, the violation of any such provision of this Code or any such ordinance shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 and imprisonment in the city prison or in the county jail and work and labor on the streets or public works of the city, whether within or without the corporate limits, not exceeding 60 days, or both a fine and sentence of imprisonment and labor; and all sentences may be in the alternative and fines may be imposed with the alternative of sentence to imprisonment and labor if the fines are not paid. Each day any violation of this Code or of any ordinance shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.
Anytime I write something like this, I feel like I need to include a disclaimer. Recently, one of our councilmen put an item on our agenda about requiring drug testing for our elected officials. Apparently, there are legal issues involved with putting that into our charter, but nothing is stopping elected officials from doing that voluntarily. I went the day after it was on our agenda and took one just like any other city employee. I have no problem continuing to do that while I hold this position. I know that some will try to label anyone who even brings this up for discussion as a pot head, and it would be nice to have a meaningful conversation without innuendo or false accusations.
While our community is more conservative and Republican than most areas of the country, 55% of Republicans support complete legalization and a full 88% of Republicans support legalization for medical purposes. That makes me wonder if our current policy still reflects our citizens’ views on proper punishment for low level marijuana cases. This post is not to argue for or against marijuana legalization. It is meant to inquire about public sentiment regarding penalties laid out in our city charter for these crimes.
This election season has been…..interesting. I have spent the last 4 years in office going out of my way to involve people in their local government and ensure the council was informed about where our electorate stands on a number of issues. While I don’t bring every single issue before our citizens on social media, I want to ensure some of the more momentous issues that could affect our lives the most are subjected to a public discourse. I am sure that is what carried me through the election and ensured a solid majority in a race that was unnecessarily messy at times. I want to talk about the election specifically and what my perspective is on how it all went down.
Obviously, the most noise was made by Paul Lee. He made several ridiculous claims that I was a drug convict and that I was stealing money from our city’s flag fund. One city voter recorded the conversation they had with Paul while he was campaigning, and he was telling people that I took money from the flag fund to buy my campaign t-shirts. I had more than one person tell me this, but the recording made it apparent he was, in fact, telling this to people. It would have been nice for Paul to have addressed that with me personally, but I believe his goal was to do as much damage as possible to my reputation than to find true answers. I also believe he was manipulated into believing some of these things by people within the city’s power structure.
Paul showed me anonymous letters he had received in which he was being told to pull open records requests with very specific dates and subjects in which only someone intimately involved with city business would have access. One of his requests was a specific date about a t-shirt/powder purchase in the year my event got rained out. Obviously this was an attempt to capture a narrow view of my efforts to raise money for the flag fund, and responding by providing the complete picture of those funds was the best way to bat away those claims. There were other open records requests that I would liken to finding a needle in a haystack. It was apparent that someone “in the know” was pushing him to find anything he could to use against me. I believe I know who originated those letters. It’s not hard to identify who at city hall has repeatedly tried to make me look as bad as possible. I also do not believe they were trying to help Paul win. The intent was to damage me to the point that Tony could win. For the record, I truly believe that Tony had nothing to do with any of this. He’s always been a stand up guy, and I have an even greater appreciation for him after this election.
Overall, I am excited about the new council and our opportunity to make some great things happen for our city. Even though there are some lingering personal/political issues, I think that the experience we currently have along with some new perspectives will serve our city well in representing our diverse population. I am happy to have Sara serving another term. She has been a steady hand the last four years. She has great expertise at the state level and builds relationships in a way that will benefit our city for the next four years. While we have been on different sides of some issues, I appreciate her professionalism. I feel like I have learned some things from her about handling tough interactions on contentious issues. Rhonda will bring a new perspective, and I’m looking forward to hearing her ideas and input on the direction of our city. She has shown a real fire to represent the people of this community. I’m thankful to have a new voice and fresh perspective, and I think the city made a great choice in bringing her on board to be a councilwoman. Jake also worked his tail off to win a seat this election, and I’m so happy for him. He campaigned on some things that I’m looking forward to implementing in the next year…specifically a dog park. We have the space to make that happen, and I’m excited to hear his thoughts on how bring it to fruition. I truly believe it can be one of the best cost to benefit ratio projects we can bring to the city. Also, I have the feeling that there is now a majority on the council committed to making that happen. He also has great expertise in many things the city deals with on a day to day basis. Jake has always been straightforward and honest. Having a straight shooter on any board makes the work and relationships much easier to manage.
My concerns moving forward are almost all political in nature. The city is in great financial position, and we have set a course that is sustainable and pro-growth with an exceptional plan to ensure our city is something we can all be proud of. I go out of my way to work with all the elected officials in my area and limit my disagreements to policy, but I will not shy away from calling out bad behavior. Specifically, the attempts to label fellow board members as unethical during our council meetings needs to stop. Disagreements on policy do not equal being unethical. It has happened repeatedly, and I will continue to publicly call out personal attacks for what they are. They are attempts to intimidate and punish people for having a viewpoint they do not agree with. I do believe the climate will markedly change with the new members voted in during this election cycle. Thank you again for the honor of serving a second term as the mayor of Ringgold. Please always feel free to contact me about anything you have a question or concern about.