Georgia has some of the most punitive marijuana laws in the country, but two pieces of legislation authored by State Sen. Curt Thompson (D-5th District) could legalize the plant and generate some much-needed cash for the state’s educational fund.
SB 344 is making progress, and it is good to see that others are finally ready to support something that will benefit all. My bill now has 7 sponsors, and I couldn't be happier. One step at a time to legalize Marijuana.
— Curt Thompson (@curt_thompson) January 26, 2018
As of Friday morning, the Georgia General Assembly listed only six sponsors on the bill, but it is unclear when the site was last updated.
By establishing an adult-use marijuana market “one step at a time,” similar to Colorado, California, Nevada, or Oregon, Sen. Thompson hopes to cultivate a new revenue stream and offset some of the state’s $12 billion debt.
“You’re going to end up bringing in about $340 million a year in extra tax revenue. That’s revenue that could restore the Hope scholarship to its previous levels,” Thompson informed Atlanta’s Fox 5 News.
The Hope and Zell Miller Scholarships are offered to Georgia’s residents that have established high academic achievements. The Hope scholarship offers supplementary funding to support students with their educational cost of attending public, private, and technical colleges.
Decriminalized by the Atlanta City Council in a unanimous vote in October 2017, outside of Atlanta’s city limits, individuals caught with more than 1 ounce of cannabis need to lawyer up; their penalties can include a felony record, 10-year prison term, and $5,000 fine.
The two pieces of legislation represent a second chance at a new beginning for Georgia residents. During the state’s 2017 Legislative Session, a similar resolution died before ever getting a vote and was supported by only one state senator at the time.
To become law, SR 614 and SB 344 must first clear two critical hurdles: obtaining passage from Georgia’s General Assembly, and gaining acceptance from the voters during the November 2018 midterm elections.
Georgia currently has a restrictive medical marijuana program. Under existing law, qualified patients are only allowed to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of “low THC oil.”
Provided Georgia were to successfully legalize adult use marijuana, the state would not only generate substantial new tax revenues while reducing the state’s non-violent prison population, but it would be taking a quantum leap toward repairing the racially disproportionate damage caused by the criminalization of a harmonious plant.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett