Medical cannabis is a conservative value. Just last week in Texas, a six-year-old girl received the state’s first shipment of legal medical marijuana. Now, the question is which southern state will be the first to legalize recreational marijuana outright. Looking around the south, the chief suspect is in the southeast. So: Could Georgia be the next state to vote for legalized weed?
Legalization Where The Marijuana Laws Are Toughest?
Georgia is more liberal on cannabis than you may think. Atlanta lawmakers ended criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession in October. That paved the way for state lawmakers to support legalization in numbers never before seen.
State Senator Curt Thompson tried to legalize cannabis in Georgia last year. His bill failed, in no small part because he was the only sponsor. This time around, five other state lawmakers attached their names to the effort.
Decriminalization is nice, but legalization is much better. Georgia has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the country. Possession of more than two ounces is punishable by a ten-year prison term, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
That’s bad. And that’s something cities can’t fix on their own.
“To get rid of the gangs, to get rid of the organized crime unit, that is the only way to do it is to do it statewide,” Thompson told WTOC.
Based on numbers from Colorado, if Georgia were to legalize and tax recreational cannabis, it would mean more than $340 million in tax revenue. Big money! And money that Georgia is desperate to find from somewhere. Anywhere. This is why the answer to “Could Georgia be the next state to vote for legalized weed” is a strong maybe.
If Not Casinos, Then Cannabis
Georgia lawmakers have spent the past few years furiously searching around for a source of income. They’ve tried several times to legalize casinos with no luck.
So instead of casinos, why not marijuana?
Thompson’s plan is short on details. The bill he’s introduced only authorizes the state assembly to send the question to voters. Every other point, such as who can grow it and how it’ll be taxed or sold, is still up in the air.
That said, Thompson wants to split that $340 million windfall between education and transportation.
If the bill passes the state Legislature, it would go to the voters in November 2018 for their final approval.
That’s a mighty big if.
Final Hit: Could Georgia Be The Next State To Vote For Legalized Weed?
2018 is already shaping up to be a banner year for marijuana legalization. Vermont’s governor signed a legalization bill into law in January. New Jersey’s governor is on notice to fulfill a similar promise. And backers of a legalization effort in Michigan say they have more than enough support to pass a ballot measure in November.
Where does that leave Georgia? In the south, unfortunately. Support for legalization so far is limited to urban areas like Atlanta. Lawmakers in other sparsely populated areas of the state aren’t quite so keen. Not even coastal Savannah, with its renowned arts and cultural scene, is down with legal weed.
In fact, lawmakers are both the solution and the problem.
Georgia has no citizen-initiated ballot initiative process. Changes to the state Constitution go before voters, but only legislators can send a question to the ballot.
So legalization’s only path forward is via state lawmakers. Until this year, no state had accomplished that. And so far, only Bernie Sanders’s home state has managed that trick. Can the home of SEC football be the next? It’s at least possible.