Retail Marijuana and Georgia's Prosperity

By Curt Thompson

 

The budget is out and while revenue is looking up as we are finally coming out of the Great Recession, it in no way addresses our need for money for transportation infrastructure or education. That is why there is so much discussion about what to do about revenue. SR 6, which I pre-filed in January, should be part of the mix of things discussed to help generate revenue to improve our schools, and address our transportation needs. The resolution would both save counties, cities and the state moneys in terms of our jail and prison systems and would generate hard revenue without raising income taxes and without regressive tax increases in things like the state sales tax.

 

I decided to go into depth this week on what exactly the passing of this bill would mean for the citizens of Georgia. As was mentioned Georgia is lacking a mass transit system; in fact, it is one of the only major US cities that doesn’t receive subsidies for mass transit. Counties like Clayton have managed to expand MARTA into their cities at the cost of a tax increase while the remainder of the state of Georgia still largely suffers due to a lack of a mass transit system. We are currently one of the fastest growing states in the union and we are still one of the “best states to do business” in yet the transportation issue presents a significant obstacle to the continued growth of businesses in the state of Georgia. Furthermore, unwillingness on the part of the GOP to add more taxes for the purposes of funding transportation infrastructure growth presents an interesting opportunity for Georgia to find new ways to deal with an ongoing problem.

 

I have currently pre-filed SR6, a resolution to amend the Georgia Constitution to include a provision that would provide the budget necessary to fund new transportation infrastructure and increase education funding. Additionally this resolution will decriminalize the use, sale, production, and transportation of marijuana for retail purposes within the state of Georgia which will decrease our prison load, as we will be sending fewer offenders to prison because of marijuana, and allow the Georgia population to put their energies towards something more productive than spending time behind bars. Net revenue acquired through taxation of marijuana and licensing fees for marijuana dispensaries would go towards education and transportation.

 

Many in the Republican Party don't want to raise any additional taxes and there is a real crisis about how to handle the matter given that over half the GOP Caucus has signed the Grover Norquist pledge never to raise taxes. There's real pressure on all sides and we need to have as part of that discussion whether it makes sense to continue to leave the potential of revenue from retail marijuana sales off the table. It is my hope that SR6 would present the state of Georgia with a new revenue stream from which to draw budgetary funds. Consider, for a moment, the curious case of the State of Colorado. Recently Colorado braved the storm that is marijuana legislation and passed a resolution that decriminalized retail marijuana within their state, the benefits they have reaped are phenomenal. Colorado has experienced a steady growth in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana over the course of 2014; according to the Colorado Department of Revenue they acquired $44 million net revenue for the past fiscal year from all marijuana taxes, licenses, and fees. Shouldn’t Georgia be able to tap into this profitable revenue stream as well?

 

In conclusion, it is my hope that passage of this resolution will allow Georgia to continue to grow and prosper, as well as remain an amazing state to do business. Furthermore; this resolution will provide much needed funding for local failing school systems and breathe new life into the HOPE scholarship. Georgia must do everything in her power to make sure that our students are able to receive as much help as they deserve to allow our future to remain bright. This 2015 session we hope the Georgia legislature will pass SR6 for the continued growth and expansion of Georgia’s economy, infrastructure, school system, and HOPE scholarship.

 

Reposted from State Senator Curt Thompson’s blog (D-5th). He resides in Tucker, GA and is Chairman of the Special Judiciary Committee. Make sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. His website is www.makingyourvoicecount.com