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Marijuana Legalization Measures in Georgia

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A Georgia state senator pre-filed two measures this week that look to drastically reform marijuana laws in the Peach Tree State.

Senate Bills 6 and 7, to be introduced by Senator Curt Thompson (D) in the 2015 legislative session, seek to legalize the possession and production of cannabis for both therapeutic and recreational purposes.

Senate Bill 7 the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Relief Act, permits qualified patients and/or their caregivers to possess up to two ounces of pot or to cultivate up to eight cannabis plants for therapeutic purposes. Qualifying conditions under this measure include cancer, HIV, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, seizures and chronic pain.

The proposal also seeks to allow for state licensed production and distribution of cannabis and cannabinoid-specific preparations to registered patients. Days ago, Congress and the president signed off on language barring the Justice Department from interfering in the implementation of statewide medical marijuana efforts, such as the sort of state-sanctioned programs proposed under this act.

Senate Bill 6 is a resolution to amend the state constitution to legalize the production and sale of cannabis to those over the age of 21. If approved by lawmakers, the issue would appear on the general electoral ballot and ultimately be decided by Georgia voters. Georgians would decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the question, “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?” (State law does not permit voter initiatives but does require popular approval for constitutional amendments proposed by the legislature.)

Under present law the possession of any amount of pot in the Peach Tree State is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one-year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The possession of greater quantities is classified as a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison.

According to an analysis of marijuana possession data by the ACLU, Georgia ranks #6 in the nation in the number of total annual pot possession arrests. The state ranks 9th in the nation in marijuana possession arrests per capita.

According to the results of a January 2014 Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Peachtree NORML, over half of Georgia voters (54 percent) support a marijuana legalization policy similar to that of Colorado and Washington.

As for the prospect of either bill passing, Thompson said in a statement, “I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to advance the discussion of marijuana use and regulation and finding the best possible solution for Georgians.”

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