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The Peach State, Georgia, was hoping to get in on increased cannabis legalization in 2016, but that effort was derailed by the Georgia Legislature. The Georgia Marijuana Legalization Amendment was intended for the November 8, 2016 ballot, and was introduced by Sen. Curt Thompson as Senate Resolution 6, according to Ballotpedia. The proposed measure was meant to allow persons 21 years of age or older to purchase marijuana recreationally, the taxes from which would be divided “equally between educational programs and purposes and capital outlay projects for transportation infrastructure purposes” in Georgia. Thompson filed the constitutional amendment in 2014, and the bill was not passed by 2015 when the Georgia Legislature ended its session that year.

Medical Legalization in Georgia

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Despite that fact that recreational marijuana is not yet legal in Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal signed a medical marijuana bill into legal status in December of 2015, allowing patients suffering from sickle cell, cancer, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or seizure disorders to possess 20 ounces or less of cannabis oil as prescribed by a physician. Both children and adults were approved to use oil containing 5% THC or less only; in addition the state legalized clinical trials to further study the effects of cannabis on different diseases and disorders. At that point in time, marijuana cultivation was still illegal in Georgia, meaning that bringing the oil into the state or cultivating plants was still punishable by law.

Setbacks for HB 722

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HB 722 had widespread support, but still did not pass – it proposed several improvements on the original medical marijuana act, known as the Haleigh’s Hope Act. HB 722 was attempting to remove the 5% limit on the allowable THC amount in cannabis oil, which makes the oil ineffective for many patients, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The bill would also have allowed access to medical cannabis within the state through local cultivation, testing, and processing – these provisions were stripped from the bill as it passed through the House and it was still stymied. The requirement that patients or patients’ families must travel out of the state of Georgia and illegally bring back cannabis oil in order to treat their illnesses is ridiculous, dangerous, and puts good people in harm’s way. Federal laws forbid transporting marijuana in any form across state lines, and also forbid its use, even for medicinal purposes.

The Future of Legalization in Georgia

Supporters of medical and recreational cannabis use have promised to treat compliance with the state’s current laws as civil disobedience and publicize their efforts in an attempt to turn the legislative tide toward common sense legalization reforms. Medical marijuana is supported by Georgia voters and that evidence is obvious in the many polls that have been conducted among the populace. Due to extremely strict possession laws in Georgia (2 ounces can garner an individual up to 10 years in prison), it is one of the worst places to possess marijuana, medical or otherwise. As a result, black people in Georgia are almost four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis crimes as white people. This fact reveals the inherent racism in the process and in the current state government laws concerning cannabis. So this fight is not just for the patients and their families, but also for racial equality in Georgia. Organizations like the Georgia Care Project and Change.org are seeking to change Georgia’s cannabis laws for the better, but Georgia residents will have to make themselves heard in order to overcome the legislative bodies that continue to block new measures.

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