On Monday, June 26th, I met with a large group of residents in Savannah to discuss the options for local legislative reform through our City by City campaign. The meeting ended with the launch of the Savannah CARE Project!
We scheduled the event a couple weeks in advance of my trip down to Savannah for a work conference and I was thrilled to have several dozen people show up to the Bull Street Labs co-working space to discuss decriminalization at the municipal level.
We had a reporter from Connect Savannah in attendance and she wrote an article about it. The article, which you can read here, was a little over inundated with cheesy puns about cannabis, but I forgive her. What it did still do was help get the word out to the people of Savannah that this is a viable option for their community.
Savannah is Unique
Savannah is not a typical Georgia city. For one, it’s a college town and a coastal city, but it’s also one of the largest ports on the Eastern coast and a major economic hub for the state of Georgia. It’s a major tourist destination with a very busy downtown alongside the river that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean.
It is also unusual because it’s a major city with its own police force but without its own municipal court. Savannah relies on Chatham County’s court system. The city government, led by the Mayor’s wishes, have been pursuing the creation of its own municipal court, which it undoubtedly needs in order to be more efficient and autonomous. It raises an interesting legal question however of whether the state law that allows for municipal courts to reduce the penalty for low-level cannabis possession would also allow a city like Savannah, which is carrying out its city laws in county court, to reform and decriminalize low level cannabis possession.
Just on Monday evening I met at least a half dozen individuals who had been arrested by Savannah PD for possession, whether at a party or while they were out and about town. These people went to jail, had to pay major fines, and some have criminal records, because of mere grams of cannabis. Most of them had the resources to get themselves out of jail quickly and to hire a lawyer that could make the problem go away.
Many residents, particularly low-income residents, do not have that luxury, and they reside in parts of the City that are over policed.
Remember that in Georgia, a black individual is 4 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession as their white counterpart, despite equal rates of use.
Energy in Savannah
I was so impressed and inspired by how motivated this group was to begin working on this issue. There were politicos and organizers in attendance as well as many average citizens of all ages who wanted to get involved.
I want to thank Clinton Edminster for inviting me to speak and for inviting so many people to come. I also want to thank Sean and Darby from Smoke Cartel for coming and bringing their staff and friends to join the conversation. Smoke Cartel is also one of our corporate sponsors, a Georgia based company creating awesome glass and providing a whole range of accessories for those who smoke.
The residents felt like the most likely path forward at present was asking Council to allow the citizens to vote on a referendum. We explored the idea of a petition process to force a citizen initiated referendum but it would require around 10,000 signatures which is a lot to gather in 60 days.
Barring City Council’s willingness to address the issue, there will be elections soon and there are many bright, energetic, and talented individuals who are capable and willing and ready to run for City Council to replace those who are not interested in making progressive reforms that protect the citizens of Savannah and make it a better place to live.
How to Get Involved in Savannah:
We are so excited to see this local group form and to be helping enable them to lead the way. Ultimately the City by City campaign has to be led by residents of a community because we cannot possibly know your community like you do!
To get involved with the Savannah CARE Project, follow that link to find their Facebook page and like it.
Local Event coming up
They have an event on the 24th at Bull Street Labs to continue the discussion about how to advance this issue. Please consider joining them if you’re in the area. Follow their FB page (Savannah CARE Project) to get event updates and to get involved.
I was so happy to connect with this community and meet great folks who are doing great work. If you are ready to lead the way in your community or even if you’re just ready to have a real conversation, please reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll get something organized. You never know what can happen when you start talking!
Director of Outreach and Communications
PS – I know we’ve been a little radio silent recently. I have been overwhelmed with so many things going on in Atlanta and James has been hard at work making a living. We still have our noses to the ground and because we are a volunteer organization, we’re not always able to make the time to update our social media or post a blog even when we want to.
Please support us in our fight and make a donation to our work.