Police in Cartersville, Ga. were willing to arrest over 60 people for less than one ounce of marijuana found at a party.
This news item has been making the rounds on social media under the #Cartersville70 hashtag, and it’s even garnered national headlines. Groups like the Georgia chapter of the NAACP have stepped in to defend the young adults, most of whom are black according to news reports.
To be clear, there was less than an ounce total of marijuana found at the party. When no one claimed it as their own, the police decided to arrest everyone present, rather than simply confiscate it and send folks home or issue citations. The Cartersville police thought it was worthwhile to arrest, transport, and process nearly 70 people over a small amount of marijuana found at a party.
Weeks later, the charges have been dropped for most of the folks, however many are left wondering how this could have happened in the first place. Even with the charges dropped, many still face an arrest record visible to future employers, the financial impacts of our cash bail system, and the emotional impacts of going through the ordeal of an arrest.
“We still have the underlying issue of why this case happened in the first place. And how do we bring back the trust in law enforcement that’s lacking right now in Cartersville?” Gerald A. Griggs, an attorney involved in the Cartersville 70 case said in video update he posted about it. Griggs is a civil rights attorney and the chair of the Criminal Justice Committee for the Georgia chapter of the NAACP.
Griggs added that this issue intersects with both state laws on marijuana possession as well as the policing systems that are in place.
Police were called over alleged gun shots heard on New Years Eve. Not surprisingly they turned out to be fireworks from down the street. Unfortunately for party goers, police inserted themselves into one Cartersville woman’s New Year’s celebration and decided to arrest everyone at the party when they discovered marijuana.
The Georgia chapter of the NAACP, along with the local Bartow County branch of the NAACP, are investigating what happened. There have been allegations of rough handling by the police, as well as concerns about why these mass arrests were viewed as appropriate in the first place.
The NAACP, in conjunction with Peachtree NORML and the Georgia CARE Project, are hosting a town hall on Monday, January 29th at 6 p.m. in order to provide updates to the community about what is happening and to provide opportunities for folks to get involved.