The State of Georgia is strongly considering legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. The resolution is being sponsored by State Senator Curt Thompson and if approved, voters would decide whether or not to legalize.
The model is very similar to Colorado’s current commercial cannabis structure, and has the potential to generate an additional $340 million in tax revenue. This money could then be used to help restore crumbling transportation infrastructure as well as return the Hope Scholarship Fund to its initial amount.
As a deeply conservative state, not all Georgia legislators are in support of legalizing recreational marijuana. While many support medical marijuana, adult-use may be too big of a leap too soon.
Many Georgia residents already support the initiative noting that it will significantly reduce the amount of drug related crimes as well as alleviate overcrowding in the criminal justice system. States like Colorado and California have shown the rest of the nation the benefits recreational cannabis can have on the state economy.
Following Atlanta’s decriminalization of small quantity marijuana possession in October, support has grown with five additional co-sponsors for legalization. Georgia has some of the most stringent marijuana laws with penalties of up to 10 years in prison for possession of more than two ounces. Until the federal government removes cannabis as a schedule I drug, its doubtful that these laws will be rewritten.
Most of the support for marijuana legalization in Georgia is coming out of the more urban areas like Atlanta and Athens. The biggest obstacle to getting this initiative on the ballot is the fact that voters cannot approve measures for voting purposes. Only legislators can add propositions to be voted on, but the need for increased tax revenue could motivate bi-partisan change.
If approved, the vote would be decided in November of 2018, and if passed, this would be a major victory in a traditionally conservative state. This type of progress would only hasten the windfall of states that are seizing the opportunity to generate valuable revenue for education and transportation.