Cartersville, Georgia — As millions of Californians celebrate the legalization of cannabis — albeit with staggering tax rates — much of the country remains mired in the punitive ramifications of marijuana prohibition. At a party in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, on December 31, 60 young people were reportedly arrested over less than an ounce of marijuana.
A 21st birthday party in Cartersville, located 40 miles outside Atlanta, attracted police when officers received a call of “shots fired.” When they arrived at the party, they allegedly found what amounted to less than an ounce of cannabis. “In excess of 60 individuals” were charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana — a misdemeanor offense. Authorities say everyone at the party was arrested, noting that “all the subjects at the residence were placed under arrest for the possession of the suspected marijuana which was within everyone’s reach or control.”
The majority of people arrested were males between the ages of 19 and 25, and a “drug investigation” is now underway.
“We just want our babies; they aren’t telling us anything,” said Monesha Fezzia, a parent of one of the arrested partygoers, the day after the bust.
“If that’s the case charge them, let them make their bond, have our kids and we will have our day in court. This process is being dragged out for too long,” she said.
As of Tuesday morning, a young male with her last name who was charged with the less-than-one-ounce misdemeanor was released from the Bartow County Jail. So was a female sharing the same name and charge, though she was released just before midnight on Monday.
According to a press release from the Bartow County-Cartersville Drug Task Force, officers found “marijuana individually packaged, and several smoking devices throughout most of the first-floor rooms.” They also claim to have found “individually packaged suspected cocaine and cocaine related paraphernalia were also located upon initial contact with multiple subjects,” as well as several firearms, one of which was reportedly stolen. They did not indicate charges over the firearms, instead noting all suspects placed under arrest were charged with possession of the plant.
An image published along with the press release shows just how small the amounts of drugs actually were and does not mention any injuries from the reported “shots fired.”
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Local authorities have long pursued cannabis. In 2013, a police helicopter, heavily armed police, and a K–9 unit raided a retired citizen’s home over okra plants, which they confused with cannabis. Though Atlanta’s mayor signed legislation to decriminalize cannabis (while keeping it illegal) in October, the new policy is limited strictly to the city.
Arrests over cannabis continue to occur around the country. In 2016, more people were arrested for cannabis than for murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery put together.
Though voters in many states are rejecting federal prohibition, it very much remains in effect for millions of Americans who live in areas that still violently restrict the use of the increasingly popular plant.