In this 2016 photo, a marijuana harvester examines buds going through a trimming machine near Corvallis, Ore. AP file/Andrew Selsky
Photo: Andrew Selsky/AP
Photo: Andrew Selsky/AP

The Jolt: That day Georgia decided not to stop a city’s plan to decriminalize pot

We’re in the middle of researching the Sunday column, and have discovered we have too much information to stuff into that particular sausage casing.

Typically, we’d wait until after publication to offer up the leftovers, but two tidbits are interesting enough to serve as prequels.

As we reported Monday, former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson has unveiled a list of policy positions that include the legalization of recreational marijuana at the federal level. Each state, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate told us Wednesday, could determine how to regulate the plant.

“The states can adjust how they want to regulate that system. But it’s not going to be criminalized at the federal level. There’s definitely a state’s rights component to it,” Tomlinson said.

Though she dismissed it as a motive, Tomlinson noted that polling has shown legalization to have bipartisan support, even in Georgia. In fact, a U.S. Senate committee -- under a Republican chairman -- on Tuesday held a hearing on the difficulties cannabis companies face trying to get basic banking services in states where medical or recreational marijuana is legal.

This morning, the Tomlinson campaign sent over a list of Republican members of Congress who support legalization: U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Rand Paul of Kentucky; and U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida; Tom McClintock, and Don Young of California.

Then there’s Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, and former U.S. House members Tom Garrett of Virginia and Dana Rohrabacher  of California. And don’t forget former U.S. House speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who now sits on the board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana investment firm.

Tomlinson’s rival in the Democratic race to face down U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is Mayor Ted Terry of Clarkston, which in 2016 became the first Georgia city to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana – as he is proud to point out in this new campaign video he posted this morning.

Terry said nine Georgia cities have followed Clarkston’s lead in the last three years. He listed them. The fact that Columbus -- where Tomlinson just finished eight years as mayor -- wasn’t one of them was rather obvious.

When he and his city took up the cause in 2016, Terry said, veiled threats cascaded out of the state Capitol, threatening to send in the State Patrol to enforce what Clarkston wouldn’t. We asked Terry if those threats were ever acted upon.

No, he said. Quite the opposite.

Terry said he ran into then-Attorney General Sam Olens at a meeting of the Georgia chapter of the Vietnamese Bar Association. Yes, that’s a real group, and yet more evidence of where this state is headed.

At that meeting, the Democratic mayor of Clarkston approached the Republican attorney general. Terry quoted Olens as saying, “I looked at your ordinance. You were very clever with the law. Good job.”

We checked in with Olens last night. He said he very much doubted that he ever said “good job.” That would have been a value judgment. But Olens, now in private practice, confirmed that he did tell Terry that his staff had examined the Clarkston ordinance and found that the city had successfully “threaded the needle.”

The decriminalization ordinance was legal – and so would not be challenged by the state.

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That Ted Terry video we mentioned above? Watch it here:

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Three days ago, to little notice, the White House issued a memorandum over President Donald Trump’s name that included this paragraph:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 303 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (the “Act”) (50 U.S.C. 4533), I hereby determine, pursuant to section 303(a)(5) of the Act, that the domestic production capability for Rare Earth Metals and Alloys is essential to the national defense.

We mark this because 10 days before that memo was issued, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers served notice that an Alabama company by the name of Twins Pines has applied to strip mine acreage in Charlton County that borders Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. From the Savannah Morning News:

In the application, the company indicated it plans to extract “high quality heavy mineral reserves” for “export by truck, rail and eventual barge to national and international customers.”

“Mineral sand-derived products, particularly those containing titanium dioxide and zirconium, are in high demand worldwide in the pigment, aerospace, medical, foundry, and other industrial products,” the document states. “Elemental components, chiefly titanium, are used as the white pigments. Titanium dioxide is nontoxic and has replaced lead as the predominant pigment in paints and coatings.”

This helpful science website tells us that “the nuclear power industry uses nearly 90% of the zirconium produced each year.”

***

Joe Biden’s grip on Georgia Democrats may be slipping. You know that state House Minority Leader Bob Trammell of Luthersville has endorsed Kamala Harris in the Democratic race for president.

Now we have a glowing evaluation of Harris from U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, that includes this:

She’s always reaching back—reaching back to help our country, and to empower others to be as successful as she is. Every time I talk to her, or she gives me advice, or she checks on me, I feel like she sees something that she wants to draw out of me. Something that will help strengthen my resolve and my own ability to lead.

***

Surprise, surprise. We told you yesterday that Georgia U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and Doug Collins, two senior members of the House Judiciary Committee, hadtwo very different objectives as they questioned Robert Mueller during yesterday’s blockbuster hearing.

We caught up with both Georgians shortly after Mueller wrapped up his second appearance of the day -- the one before the House Intelligence Committee.l

Johnson, D-Lithonia, said even though Mueller largely stuck to the script, his testimony was “compelling” and crucial. “It provides the roadmap for the Judiciary Committee to proceed further in its investigation,” he said.

Johnson has not been among the 90-plus House Democrats who have publicly called for opening an impeachment inquiry. After Mueller’s day at the U.S. Capitol, Johnson said his mind on the matter has not been changed. “We’ve got to go a lot further before we’re ready for an impeachment resolution,” he said.

Doug Collins of Gainesville, the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, had an entirely different interpretation of Wednesday’s hearings. 

“If this is what (Democrats) were looking for, I think it’s a sad day for them,” Collins told reporters. “We accomplished what we’d set out to do, and I think the hearing showed that.”

President Donald Trump was happy with the GOP’s performance too. He tweeted out personalized thank yous to Collins and several other senior Republicans yesterday evening: 

***

From her non-session home in North Carolina, Liz Flowers, the lead staffer for the state Senate’s Democratic caucus, posted this on her Facebook page:

In case anyone is wondering, I was at the Shelby, NC Food Lion (we don't have a Publix) and asked about the express check-out lane.

The woman told me, if you get in that line with 200 items we aren't throwing you out. That's not how we do it.

We talked about the Atlanta incident with Rep. Erica Thomas.

She said, that's not happening here in Shelby.

Reason #256 why living in a small town and seeing your neighbors every day keeps you right.

***

Not so surprisingly, newly-appointed interim Insurance Commissioner John King filed paperwork this week to start raising money for a likely run for a full term in 2020. Much depends on whether suspended Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck steps down or is forced out of office as he faces federal fraud charges. But we get the sense that Gov. Brian Kemp and his allies will back King regardless.

*** 

Over at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz says his prediction models indicate Republicans could pick up seats – and even win back control of the U.S. House, “particularly if Trump is reelected.”

But his modeling also shows “a good chance” that Republicans could lose control of the Senate. Which would not be a game-changer. “[I]f Democrats do take back the Senate, it will almost certainly be by a very narrow margin, which would make it difficult to pass the sort of progressive legislation advocated by many of the party’s 2020 presidential candidates,” he writes.

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