In a surprisingly progressive move, the Atlanta Police Department announced that potential recruits will no longer be rejected for admitting that they have used cannabis in the past. In fact, the question regarding cannabis consumption has been completely removed from the department’s applicant pre-screening questionnaire.
Until recently, applicants were asked if they had consumed cannabis at any time in the last two years. According to the old policy, if the applicant answered ‘yes’ to that question, he or she was automatically rejected.
While seemingly groundbreaking for a department in a state where cannabis has not yet been legalized, the city’s police chief made clear this shift in policy does not give current Atlanta police officers the green light to start smoking marijuana. An applicant’s previous use of cannabis may no longer come into question, but active officers still may not consume the plant in any form.
“The use of, and attitude toward, both medical and recreational marijuana in the United States is rapidly evolving,” said Carlos Campos, the Atlanta Police Department’s director of public affairs.
“We’re not concerned so much that you used marijuana in the past, but you cannot work here as a police officer and use it,” continued Campos. “You cannot smoke marijuana if you’re an Atlanta police officer. Period. End of story.”
High Quality Officers Needed
The motivation behind the shift in policy comes from needing to attract more high-quality recruits, according to the announcement made by Chief Erika Shields. The Atlanta Police Department has seen a decline in applicants who are able to make it beyond the drug use screening in recent years. Before the policy reform, up to 60 percent of applicants had been rejected for answering ‘yes’ to the cannabis use question.
“Given the reality of this landscape, the Atlanta Police Department is increasingly encountering young applicants who are admitting to marijuana use, a question we have traditionally used to screen potential officers,” said Campos. “The result is that we are eliminating candidates who are otherwise qualified to become police officers.”
“We have to be practical about this, so that’s the change that we made,” said chief Shields after announcing the policy change. “Hopefully we’ll see it offset some of the numbers.”
Removing the cannabis screening from the hiring process isn’t the only thing the department is doing in an effort to attract more qualified applicants. They’re also offering more money. The starting salary for rookie officers in Atlanta was recently raised, and newly sworn in Atlanta police officers can expect to make $48,500.
The department has been sharing recruitment ads on its Facebook page which read, “JOIN THE ELITE APD: Looking for a fresh start in a law enforcement career? The Atlanta Police Department is hiring for police officers and we have competitive new salaries with starting officer pay beginning at $48,500.”
Higher pay and past drug use forgiveness aside, new recruits and veteran officers alike can expect to be drug tested. According to the Atlanta Police Department, there will be an increase in random drug testing to weed out officers who do not follow the law.
The department is hoping to fill 350 vacancies as soon as possible, and they expect the recent policy changes to make all the difference.
While the state of Georgia may be slow moving when it comes to cannabis policy reform, the capital city of Atlanta continues to be progressive. The possession of up to one ounce of cannabis was decriminalized in Fulton County in October 2017. Instead of facing up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, the penalty for personal possession is now just a citation with a maximum fine of up to $75.
Known for creating Napster and being the first president of Facebook, tech billionaire Sean Parker is now lending a hand to the campaign to legalize cannabis in California.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the organization leading the campaign, announced in an email to supporters that Parker will match every donation made to the California chapter.
Mason Tvert, the Communications Director of MPP, shared his reaction to Parker’s generosity,
“We’re very excited about the generosity he’s shown. This is someone who wants to see marijuana prohibition end and helped bring a lot of folks together, and now he’s putting his money where his mouth is.”
All donations, which can be for any amount but will not be tax deductible, will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Parker. With California having the world’s eighth largest economy, the total cost of cannabis legalization could reach $20 million. Tvert pointed out that this fundraising effort will be crucial for taking the next steps towards legalization,
“This is going to be a very large and very expensive campaign and so I believe we really need to raise as much money possible to ensure we get it done this coming year.”
Parker is no stranger to philanthropic donations, as he has previously contributed to research funds for conditions like cancer, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Recognizing that cannabis prohibition does more harm than good, Parker is now contributing to the initiative in California.
With 700,000 people arrested each year on non-violent marijuana charges in the United States, issues such as drug law reform and eliminating mass incarceration are gaining support from a new generation of activists.
According to Marijuana Law and Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance Amanda Reiman,
“This younger generation of activists — many millennials, many entertainers — are feeling less stigma about coming out about this issue. It’s safer. Folks our age care about this stuff — some just happen to have billions of dollars.”
San Francisco attorney Matt Kumin, received the MPP email last week and shared his thoughts.
“The more people contribute to it, the more it gains support. You start to generate grassroots enthusiasm when you get them involved in fundraising,”
he said. “There are things in this initiative I like and don’t like, but if California votes 60% for legalizing cannabis — you can affect the pace of change in the rest of the country.”
While the generous donations from Parker do not guarantee that legalization will become a reality in California, it will likely have a powerful impact the future of the initiative.
Some will remember the name of medical cannabis activist Shona Banda, the Crohn’s sufferer and cannabis oil user known for devising an inexpensive way to utilize a vaporizer to produce cannabis oil from the plant’s flowers. Ms. Banda lost her son to state custody last week when the 11-year-old boy spoke in support of medical cannabis during an anti-pot class held by counselors at his school.
Banda’s Facebook account, which has been shut down by the Garden City Police Department, was being utilized to raise money for her legal defense following the police raid of her home. The raid resulted in the state taking her son into custody for three days and then granting custody not to her, but instead to her ex-husband — who she feared would also be deemed an unfit parent and lose custody to the state.
During the raid, officers found two ounces of cannabis and one ounce of cannabis oil in the home. Ms. Banda used these herbs and herbal extracts — which 24 states have now recognized as having legal medicinal value — to treat her Crohn’s disease. She endured a three-hour session with police at her door as they waited for a search warrant from a judge, as well as the absence of her son for several days (he was taken to an out-of-town location).
Having lost her Facebook account, Ms. Banda is currently utilizing a GoFundMe account to raise money. To date, she has raised $25,000 from more than 940 contributors over only a five day period. Ms. Banda has not yet been charged with a crime; her custody hearing takes place on April 20.
The pro-marijuana legalization campaign in Oregon, Yes on 91, has incorporated a creative strategy into their mission to encourage registered voters to exercise their rights by using a clone-able Facebook app.
How does it work?
First the app matches contacts from your Facebook account to the list of registered voters in the state of Oregon. Next, the app will show you which of your Facebook friends are registered to vote, but who have not yet submitted a ballot. Lastly, it will give you the option to send a private Facebook message to each friend, reminding him or her cast their vote.
Once registered voters have cast a ballot, the registered voter website marks the person as having voted, so this app will only match people who have not yet voted. Do not fret, it does not show who or what a person voted for. This app can be added to Facebook by going to DidTheyVote.org. People can find out whether or not their friends have voted yet, and then politely or overwhelmingly remind that person to exercise his or her rights as an American.
One fan of the app, Sarah Duff, a volunteer with the campaign supporting Measure 91, told the Daily Journal,
“This kind of app is great because it helps me do all the things I would do anyway, which is remind my friends to vote.”
The organization anticipates this reminder tool to appeal especially to young voters, and are excited to see the results next week.