Georgia lawmakers have been working for years to bring a comprehensive medical marijuana program to the state, but there has been much resistance to the concept. Lawmakers and their enforcement counterparts claim they are not ready for that sort of change, but they may have to grow up fast.
Legislation was recently introduced that would legalize marijuana for recreational use—allowing weed to be sold in a manner similar to beer—throughout the state.
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Earlier this week, Senator Curt Thompson submitted a proposal aimed at digging marijuana out of the ditch of prohibitionary times. The bill, which will have to survive the Republican-controlled chambers to have a fighting chance, would give way to taxed and regulated system like Colorado. Basically, adults 21 and older would have the freedom to buy cannabis and cannabis products the same as they do with alcohol.
The bill has half a dozen cosponsors already.
While a long shot, Thompson believes, “The historical trends and the political trends nationally, and even here in Georgia, are on our side,” according to local reports. The Democrat realizes the measure will likely be buried out behind the State Capitol, but he wants Georgia’s marijuana conversation in 2018 to include recreational use. “Medical marijuana only is not enough,” he added.
The lawmaker predicts the state could generate “$340 million a year in extra tax revenue” from the sale of cannabis. All of which would be split between roads and education. “It would be 50 percent for transportation, which could go to mass transit, or roads, and then 50 percent to the Hope Scholarship,” Thompson told reporters.
As it stands, marijuana possession in Georgia is a criminal misdemeanor. The state has some of the harshest laws in the country when it comes to this offense. Some local jurisdictions have moved to decriminalize it. But much of the state still holds to an anti-weed standard. This means most people busted for even small amounts of marijuana (less than an ounce) run the risk of being sent to jail for a year and paying fines reaching $1,000.
However, if Thompson’s bill miraculously makes it through both the State Senate and the House of Representative, there is a good chance it could pass. Rather than be sent to the governor for approval, the bill would head straight to the ballot in the November election. Georgia voters would have final say. Some of the latest polls show that half of the population would support the question of recreational marijuana.