Georgia legalized medical marijuana in 2015, but legally it remained prohibited to grow and possess marijuana and drug paraphernalia. However, a recent case may have changed all that, making a large impact on the future of marijuana decriminalization in Georgia.
Javonnie Mondrea McCoy, a citizen of Laurens County, was beaten severely back in 2003 which resulted in his being in a 2-week-long coma. Ever since the incident, he has suffered from chronic pain. McCoy uses marijuana to alleviate his pain. When he faced charges for possession, he chose not to deny his actions, but rather to accuse the law of being unfair. McCoy openly admitted to possessing and using marijuana, refusing to hide anything. His attorney, Catherine Bernard, stated the following on her Facebook page:
“The jury appreciated his honesty throughout the case – including testimony at trial and statements to the police – and recognized that a good, hardworking man living a quiet life and not bothering anyone didn’t deserve a felony conviction for his actions.”
McCoy’s legal action is a concept known as jury nullifications. This concept states that a jury isn’t bound by the facts of the case or the laws underlying those acts. This means that, in that particular case, the jury has the power to nullify a law with which they disagree. In the case of McCoy in Laurens County, they decriminalized medical marijuana, finding the charges unjust.
While jury nullification doesn’t do as much for putting an end to the unjust laws, it’s a good start. The more juries nullify harsh marijuana laws in cases like McCoy’s, the closer we get to federal decriminalization. The more our nation shows that decriminalization is what they want, the sooner the federal officials will listen.
The difference in decriminalization and legalization can be confusing. At the state level, decriminalization means you won’t face felony charges, but you will have it confiscated and may face a misdemeanor depending on the volume of possession. Decriminalization at the federal level would essentially place the legalization decision in the states’ hands. It means that federal officers will leave those in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, etc. alone and let the states determine how harshly they want to punish it.
With federal decriminalization will likely come more and more recreationally legalized states. Many states, like Virginia, are waiting to ensure their federal safety before legalizing marijuana. Hopefully, this nullification will serve as an example for juries in the future to increase the likelihood of federal decriminalization.