Lady Business: Sharon Ravert of Peachtree NORML

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Dahlonega, GA 2005: An eight member SWAT team comprised of a drug task force spent 4 hours in the early morning raiding Sharon Ravert’s family home, holding her family at gunpoint, arresting and cavity searching her 19-year-old daughter at the local sheriff’s office, then jailed her daughter for 2 days, and found only a bud of cannabis and shake (amounting to 1.5 grams) during the raid. They also seized a few glass pieces, a small light that was 10-years-old that was used for tomato seedlings and warming animals for a kennel on the property. Her daughter faced 26 years for misdemeanor possession, and intention to distribute and manufacture.

Sharon with daughter Brittany, who became an activist in her own right.

Instead of bowing to the system, Sharon became catalyzed and is one of the country’s top drug policy reform activists who is well respected in the progressive community. She’s got a helluva year planned for Georgia, one of country’s harshest fronts in the War on Drugs (people). Her work has brought her in contact with some of the best and brightest of the national reform community groups like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), NAACP, Atlanta Harm Reduction, Georgia Justice Project (expungement/reentry work), Southern Poverty Law Center, Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), Georgia Taxpayers Alliance and many, many more. 

We’re proud to feature her in Ladybud’s Lady Business as well as our Livestream show, which airs every Tuesday LIVE at SoHi Gallery/Hoodlab in Denver, Colorado from 12:30-1:30 PM MST. Click to bookmark the show!

LADYBUD: How soon did you decide to fight back against the invasive and destructive drug war?

Sharon with activists Diane Goldstein of LEAP, Mara Felsen, Charmie Gholson and Diane Fornbacher of Ladybud Magazine

SHARON RAVERT: Soon after we got my daughter out of jail. I was so mad and couldn’t believe what had occurred over marijuana. I have always been a very private person and it felt as though our house, family and lives had been disrupted for nothing. I soon found out it was not a disruption, they were out to destroy my child’s future over a joint.

I was a business owner and very involved in our local community, I started telling folks what happened and asking them how they felt about it and if they supported the efforts of law enforcement and their tactics. I wanted to make sure I was not crazy thinking that way.  I went from hosting events for local law enforcement at our house to locking our doors and fearing them. It was a terrible wake up call, but we got through it and continue working to protect others from the same fate. I didn’t realize we were even activists until some time later.

LB: What are some upcoming and annual events in which you participate or organize?

Sharon with Dr. Lester Grinspoon, pioneer of cannabis, culture and medicine

SHARON: We have expanded so quickly, it is hard to keep up with all we have going on.  We have 6 new chapters around the state and several others coming on board very soon.  Most chapters host monthly meetings and table events in their area almost every weekend.  We are very active in our communities.  We have a walking team, we have speakers going out to rotary clubs and local political groups.

We will be busy at the Gold Dome (Georgia State Capitol). We have Lobby Days planned, one specifically on marijuana law reform that we host yearly with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), several on criminal justice reform working with groups like National Incarceration Network (NIN). We can’t be everywhere we are asked to be, which is a good thing.

NORML Women’s Alliance is hosting a meet-and-greet in early February in Atlanta, we will be assisting in that planning and most likely will hold it at our event location. We have a gracious board member that allows us to utilize their beautiful home for events.

We will be involved in Liberty America’s event at Freedom Park on 4/20 this year, of course some secret cups will get our attention that day and evening as well. Netroots Nations has extended an invitation and offered a vendors booth to us for their first time in a Tier 1 city in August and of course, we are very excited that  The Drug Policy Alliance is coming to Atlanta, the “Belly of the Beast” for their biennial conference in October 2017.

LB: On what legislation and campaigns are you currently working?

SHARON: Peachtree NORML is a 501C3, so we educate our lawmakers and are invited often to testify at committee hearing, on marijuana issues as well as criminal justice issues like no-knock warrants, automatic number plate recognition and the like.

This year there will be a bill to expand the list of conditions for the CBD/low THC oil that was

Sharon and Diane at the 24th MassCann/NORML Boston Freedom Rally after party

passed last year, it will also try to strike the language “end stages” from the current bill, as well as change the regulations and requirements placed on physicians who are willing to recommend. I have had physicians tell me they wish we would just legalize it across the board so they don’t have to deal with it.

I have yet to hear anything about full plant therapy mentioned, so that is doubtful to be introduced this year. Our governor will not allow in-state cultivation, so it seems the only way is to go around him. A constitutional amendment will be introduced to provide in-state cultivation and safe access. It will need to be passed by a ⅔ majority vote in both houses and then it will go on the ballot for the voters, but not until Nov. 2018.  More stalling.

We support the patients in Georgia, but they are not asking permission anymore. The bills they have now are just a promise of immunity from prosecution, not arrest and we know what promises are good for. We have no medical defense here, so it is up to the DA and most are not having it. Marijuana possession and probation revocation for dirty urine is our court system’s bread and butter.

We will again have another constitutional amendment for a tax and regulate model, which will go no where. We have a statewide decrim bill as well that should be filed any day by Senator Harold Jones.  He is a former DA and knows the harms of prohibition firsthand. I gave him a LEAP pin and he wears it everyday at the capitol. It starts conversations.

We have had some success on a few baby steps, as last year we got a bill passed repealing the  revocation of driver’s licenses for marijuana offenses. We hope to have some other baby steps introduced. I am working to locate someone to introduce a bill that would protect parents from losing their children. I have been to one too many hospital rooms supporting moms that have tested positive for metabolites when giving birth waiting on CPS for the dreaded talk with some success stories and some failures, but the fact that the discussion is even being had is terrible. They have to stop legally kidnapping our children. This is my focal baby step this year.

If you can tell after 4 years of stalling any meaningful progress in Atlanta, I am a bit frustrated with the lack of compassion and their blind ignorance. The research has all been done, and we know that we are finding out more, the research should continue, but to use that as an excuse to keep this natural plant a crime is unconscionable. It is criminal. So, we remain focused as always on the first step: decriminalization.

Sharon speaking at Seattle Hempfest Photo:

It is difficult doing this work as a known “criminal.” It takes courage from each of our volunteers. Once we get that, we are on a level playing field with the legislators.  I look forward to their public defense of prohibition. That will be the day we win. It is time for offense and 2017 looks to be the year for us. It is too bad we don’t have big money to work with, but we have a varsity team ready to go. Hell, we don’t need millions, we don’t have voter initiative, we just need money to raise awareness more than 100 or 500 people at a time. Our state citizens just don’t know, and we can’t do everything on Facebook. We can’t be in every community, we need to buy ads in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, tell people we are moving on this issue and they will stand up. We need votes, connections that I know are out there, we don’t need millions to pay volunteers to collect signatures.  Georgia is the key to the South and all roads go through Atlanta.  We are the cradle of the civil rights movement and we will rise up!!