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Monday, April 29, 2013

Plans for Freedom Park pot festival go up in smoke

CAMP Founder Paul Cornwell, pictured on left talking with an Atlanta Police officer last year, wanted to hold event in Freedom Park
  • Courtesy of Paul Cornwell
  • CAMP Founder Paul Cornwell, pictured on left talking with an Atlanta Police officer last year, wanted to hold event in Freedom Park

A federal judge denied a marijuana advocacy group's request to host its festival in Freedom Park last Friday.

The Coalition for Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition filed for injunctive relief after Atlanta rejected the group's permit application asking to assemble in Freedom Park for the Great Atlanta Pot Festival.

City officials say there is a 75-person limit for gatherings in what it defines as a "passive" park, which comes from a lease agreement the city signed with the Georgia Department of Transportation in 1998.

Ralph Goldberg, CAMP's lawyer, told U.S. District Judge Steve Jones that the city refused the permit because the festival was related to marijuana and that there is no legal definition that denotes a "passive" versus and "active" park.

Jones said in his ruling that issuing the permit would be against the public's interest and "could potentially lead to the City losing control of Freedom Park." In addition, he said that past legislation defined Freedom Park as a "roadside park," a designation that only allows for picnicking, hiking, biking and other leisurely activities.

City officials offered CAMP alternative areas to gather, including nearby Delta Park and Springvale Park, but the group's founder Paul Cornwell called those parks "postage stamps" that are not the adequate size for hosting the event. He says he expects as many as 5,000 people to attend the festival.

"If this stands, what it means is that the state can contract with the city to deny constitutional rights by way of a lease," Cornwell told CL after the ruling.

The festival will go on, however. Cornwall says the group will now be forced to set up along Poplar Circle, closing the street off from Euclid Avenue to Hurt Street, for the event on Saturday.

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