Photo by Casey Gomez

Georgia state senator Curt Thompson, a Democrat from Tucker, recently introduced a bill in the State Capitol for the legalization of recreational marijuana. It is undoubtedly an unpopular viewpoint in the Capitol, considering that Georgia is largely a “red” state and traditionally the conservative stance is to oppose drug legalization.

However, marijuana legalization could potentially bring a lot of positive change to Georgia and Atlanta. In the most recent mayoral election for the state’s capital, candidates frequently talked about crime, safety and the state of the law in Atlanta. Legalizing the drug could lead to a reduction in crime, as it gets rid of the black market surrounding the sale of marijuana, and allows cities to divert their law enforcement resources towards other, greater threats to society and safety of citizens.

Those who are caught for the use and sale of marijuana are also disproportionately minorities and the law is often used to discriminate against them.

But with legalization also comes the need for infrastructure to regulate the
industry that will be created. Many banks do not offer their services to cannabis businesses, citing federal law that claims the drug is on par with cocaine and heroin.
Although some banks in states where it has been legalized are open to dealing with the industry, cannabis legalization — or at the very least decriminalization — needs to happen on a national scale rather than
state-by-state in order for the market to transition swiftly and be taxed. Tax
revenues from sales could then go to education and transportation spending in Georgia.

The decriminalization of cannabis on a federal level may still be far off, and
Georgia is likely to reject a bill that legalizes recreational use but such actions are nevertheless indicative of a positive trend.