Georgia Bill Would Expand Medical Marijuana Law, Another Step to Block Federal Prohibition

ATLANTA, Ga. (Feb. 1, 2016) – A Georgia bill would legalize the production and sale of medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state via constitutional amendment, effectively thwarting the unlawful federal prohibition on the same.

Introduced by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) and five co-sponsors, House Resolution 36 (HR36) would allow voters to approve putting the following language into the Georgia state constitution:

The General Assembly may provide by general law for the regulation of the production of cannabis, sale of medical cannabis for medical usage to certain individuals as provided by law, and for all or a portion of the net revenue, as defined by the General Assembly, derived from fees paid for the production of cannabis be dedicated to a department as provided by law and state taxes paid on the sale of medical cannabis be dedicated to a fund to support drug treatment programs. Such net revenue shall not lapse as required by Article III, Section IX, Paragraph IV(c) and shall not be subject to the limitations of subparagraph (a) of this Paragraph or Article VII, Section III, Paragraph 19 II(a).”

Although cannabis oil is technically legalized in the state of Georgia, manufacturing it within state lines is still criminalized. HR36 would build upon previous reforms that legalized cannabis oil for patients with certain illnesses. The measure would expand the law by protecting caregivers, making it easier for qualifying patients to treat their conditions with medical marijuana. It would put the following question to voters during the Nov. 2018 mid-term election:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by general law for the regulation of the production of cannabis and sale of medical cannabis to certain individuals and further provide that the net revenue of the fees from such production be dedicated to a department and state sale taxes be dedicated to a fund to support drug treatment programs within this state?

“It’s clear we’re going to have a hard time passing a cultivation bill [in the state legislature] for the next two years,” Rep. Peake said as reported by the Macon Telegraph. “So why not put it in front of the voters, where every poll shows there’s clear evidence that voters support this?”

Recent polling indicates that Georgia voters are hesitant when it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, but overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released on Jan. 7 showed that 71 percent of Georgia voters support an “an in-state harvesting program” for medical marijuana like what is proposed in HR36.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HR36 remain perfectly legal, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any lawful authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Full legalization of medical marijuana in Georgia would remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Georgia sweeps away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Georgia could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and thwarting it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” public policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

HR36 will need to be officially introduced and pass its committee assignment before it can be considered by the full House.