Georgia lawmakers introduce bill to legalize marijuana

RABUN COUNTY A new bill making its way through Georgia’s legislature that would add adult-use cannabis has been added to the state’s November ballot and government officials are here for it. 

The legalization bill, SB614, was introduced by Senator Curt Thompson and quickly amassed official backing from five of his Democratic peers in the state legislature.

If Thompson’s bill is successful, Georgia residents would be able to purchase, possess, and use “small amounts of marijuana.” As it stands, the bill is just two pages long and contains only vague protocols for legalization.

Cissy Henry Clayton City Manager told WRBN/WGHC that she sees the benefits of both recreational and medical use in Rabun County if the bill passes through the November ballot.

“I have seen people and have had friends who it [marijuana] has made a difference in their quality of life. If it was legalized and it was taxed appropriately then anything that we would be able to reap the funding off of that would be beneficial,” Henry said. “Because anybody who is going to do it, is going to do it illegally anyway(s). I think that it’s just like the alcohol sales if the government can get taxes off of it, it would be beneficial.”

Unlike more detailed proposals, SB614 makes no mention of home grows, tax rates, dispensary regulations, or allowed possession limits. Still, with several states already allowing legal weed sales, Georgia legislators have plenty to pull from. Thompson is confident those issues will resolve themselves in due time.

“If you use the same tax rate that Colorado has, and then you correct, we are a bigger state,” Thompson said. “We bring in $340 million a year.”

Even with a bare-bones plan, Thompson already has ideas about where that potential money could best be spent.

“It would be 50 percent for transportation, which could go to mass transit, or roads, and then 50 percent to the Hope Scholarship,” Thompson said.

Currently, Georgia is home to some of the country’s harshest cannabis laws. And while cities like Atlanta and counties like DeKalb have recently decriminalized the plant, cannabis users outside those progressive urban centers are still subject to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for possession of less than an ounce of weed. 

If SB614 succeeds in both the State Senate and House of Representatives, the cannabis legalization measure would then appear on the state’s Midterm election ballot this November, giving Georgia residents the final say. In the most recent look at how that vote might turn out, a poll conducted last month found that 50% of respondents said they support adult-use cannabis legalization, while 46% opposed it, and 3% said they were unsure.

SB614 is currently making its way through the Georgia State Senate.