A lawmaker in Georgia’s legislature has just proposed a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use.
State Senator Curt Thompson, a Democrat from Tucker, is seeking to legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana flower. He also wants to approve retail sales of marijuana at dispensaries and feels Georgia could benefit from additional tax revenues.
“If you used the Colorado tax rates and then just correcting for population, you know, assuming it’s going to be heavier use or less use here in Georgia than in Colorado, you end up bringing about $340 million dollars a year just in tax revenue,” Thompson said according to WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Thompson seems to be keeping a close eye on marijuana reform measures across the country.
“The historical trends and the political trends nationally, and even here in Georgia, are on our side,” Thompson said.
Theresa Yarbrough, Director of the Georgia Care Project, a medical marijuana advocacy group, was encouraged by Thompson’s bill but remained skeptical that the bill would pass.
“SB614 is what Georgians want but under the leadership of the current General Assembly it’s not likely to become a reality,” Yarbrough told mg. “Cannabis legalization activists have been tasked for decades with trying to appeal to a legislative body that isn’t interested in what Georgian’s want. Our state government can’t even find the compassion of heart to provide growing and distribution of cannabis as medicine for Georgia’s sick and suffering.”
“Having people like Curt Thompson, Senator Michael Williams, Senator Harold Jones III, and Dee Dawkins -Haigler writing pro-cannabis bills and speaking publicly in support for legalization does give us hope for the future,” Yarbough added. “However, until we get a seat at the table where our voices will be heard, our legislators will decide our fate based on who’s donating the largest campaign contributions.”
But not everyone is on board with Thompson’s bill.
“To me, this looks like election-year theatrics,” said Virginia Galloway with the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Galloway fears that the safety of her residents could be put in jeopardy with legalized marijuana.
“I think most Georgians realize there are some real dangers inherent in doing that thing, and a lot of people will be hurt. Traffic accidents, not to mention the impact of drug use on young people,” Galloway continued.
The road to legalization could be a long one. Georgia is a red state with deeply rooted conservative thinking. Many residents and lawmakers may not be quite ready to embrace recreational marijuana.
But even if Thompson’s bill does not pass, momentum for legalization appears to be building.
“When I first started this, I was the only sponsor. There’s now six sponsors on the retail bill. There’s about 17 or 18 on the medicinal marijuana statute,” Thompson said.
Georgia’s largest city has already enacted major marijuana reform. Last year, Atlanta’s City Council unanimously approved a marijuana decriminalization bill which was signed into law by Mayor Kasim Reed. Previously, getting caught with an ounce or less of marijuana was punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine. Under the new law, violators are charged a $75 fine and face no jail time.
Currently, there are 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana and 9 states that have approved recreational use. If Georgia were to legalize medical or recreational marijuana, they could become the first state in the south to do so.