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Georgia Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

The Peach State is home to some of America’s most restrictive cannabis laws, but as the tide of cannabis reform continues to swell nationwide, lawmakers are ready to usher in a new era.

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A new bill making its way through Georgia's legislature would add adult-use cannabis legalization to the state's November ballot, potentially ending prohibition in the Peach State before the end of 2018.

According to Atlanta's local CBS affiliate WGCL, 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. 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 themself in due time.

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

Even with a barebones 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 you're carrying any more than a zip or caught selling even dime bags of bud, those penalties increase exponentially.

Further, Georgia police have consistently used the state's cannabis laws to unfairly persecute minorities. Just last month, Georgia cops arrested 70 young people over one single bag of pot, reigniting the conversation about cannabis reform on a state and national level.

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 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution 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.

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