Georgia Can Legalize Medical and Recreational Cannabis in 2015

Two Georgia bills ready for introduction during the 2015 legislative session would change the state's enforcement priorities relating to marijuana. One bill would legalize medical marijuana, the other would put the full legalization of marijuana on the ballot for Georgia voters to decide.

Senate Bill 7 (SB7) and Senate Resolution 6 (SR6) were pre-filed by State Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Norcross). SB7 would make Georgia the 24th state to legalize marijuana for medical patients. SR6 would allow Georgia voters to decide whether to tax and regulate marijuana similar to Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon.

SB7 allows qualifying medical patients to grow "eight marijuana plants contained in an enclosed, locked facility." Patients can possess up to two ounces of useable marijuana, and can designate a caregiver to grow for them. Caregivers are authorized to grow plants for medical marijuana patients if they are 21 years of age and have no felony convictions on their record. In addition, not-for-profit marijuana dispensaries would be permitted under SB7 as well.

Medical patients would qualify if they suffer from "cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease" and "cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe and chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis." If necessary, the Department of Public Health is authorized to broaden the list of illnesses to provide more sick people with access to the plant.

SB7 also educates legislators on the benefits of the plant. The bill reads, "Marijuana's recorded use as a medicine goes back nearly 5,000 years" and "currently has many accepted medical uses in the United States and has been recommended by thousands of licensed physicians to at least 260,000 patients in the states with medical marijuana laws." SB7 goes to on cite Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports and the Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics to state that "approximately 99 out of every 100 marijuana arrests in the United States are made under state law rather than under federal law. Consequently, changing state law will have the practical effect of protecting from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill patients who have a medical need to use marijuana."

SR6 proposes an amendment to the Georgia state constitution. It would amend Article III, Section IX, Paragraph VI of the Georgia state constitution to read in part that "the General Assembly shall provide by law for the legalization and regulation of the production and sale of marijuana for personal use by individuals 21 years of age or older." If SR6 successfully passes through the Georgia legislature, it goes to the Georgia voters as a ballot measure. That is the requirement for constitutional amendments to be passed in Georgia.

The question posed to voters would be, "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by general law for the legalization and regulation of the production and sale of marijuana for personal use by individuals 21 years of age or older and may further provide that the taxes from such production and sale shall be appropriated equally between educational programs and purposes and capital outlay projects for transportation infrastructure purposes within this state?" The date in which this question would be put to voters was not specified in SR6.

Under SR6, tax revenue raised from the legalized marijuana market would initially go to the administrative costs related to the regulation of the plant. From there, the general assembly with recommendations from the governor would appropriate surplus revenue toward funding state education and transportation services.

If you live in the state of Georgia, contact your state legislators immediately. It is important for you to politely urge them to co-sponsor these important bills. That is how you can make a difference in the fight against cannabis prohibition. If you live in another state, contact your state legislators and urge them to introduce a similar measure such as our P.E.A.C.E (Preventing Excessive Allocations for Cannabis Enforcement) Act.