We’ve received questions from supporters asking why Georgians don’t see anything on the ballot about cannabis legalization in 2016. You’ve also asked what has to happen in order for Georgians to be able to vote on these issues.
We are so glad to hear these questions! They are the exact questions anyone who wants to see legal reforms should ask, and we’re here to answer them.
The answers, which we have explained below, are why we do the work that we do, and why we need your support.
Below are answers to these questions along with explanations so you can understand exactly how things work in Georgia. We’ve taken some of this info from Ballotpedia, which is also a good source to check out for political info on Georgia and elsewhere.
Q: Why isn’t there anything on the ballot about cannabis legalization?
A: Because Georgia legislators decided against including it on the ballot.
In Georgia, “the legislature can put a proposed amendment on the ballot upon a two-thirds majority vote in both the legislative chambers.”
This means the Georgia State Senate and the Georgia State House of Representatives must both vote on including the amendment on the ballot. AND at least two-thirds (2/3) of both chambers must approve the decision in order for it to be included.
The voting does not rely upon a simple majority of 51% but a “supermajority” rule of two-thirds. That means 120 votes in the House and 38 votes in the Senate.
Q: What about the ballot measure that was proposed in 2015?
A: The ballot measure did not pass both chambers in 2015. It was not reintroduced in 2016.
Senator Curt Thompson of District 5 introduced Senate Resolution 6 on November 24, 2014. This submitted the ballot for consideration in the 2015-2016 session. It did not pass both chambers and was not reintroduced after its failure to pass.
It can be reintroduced again, but it will require support from more legislators to pass.
Q: What about Washington, D.C.? They petitioned to vote on the issue.
A: Georgia’s constitution “does not currently allow for any form of citizen initiated ballot measures, so all ballot measures must be referred by the legislature.”
The District of Columbia allows for “citizen initiated ballot measures.” This means if enough citizens sign a petition in support of an initiative, the issue will be placed on the ballot and it does not require the legislature’s approval. The legislature still has the power to introduce ballot measures but citizens can bypass them and force the issue to a vote.
This is a powerful form of direct democracy. However, it is not something that is allowed in Georgia’s constitution. This means it is not an option for cannabis legalization.
Instead, one or more Georgia legislators must sponsor the ballot measure in order for it to go to a vote in the two chambers. Then, each chamber must vote in support of the ballot measure (at least 2/3 as described above) in order for it to be included on the ballot on election day.
This means Georgia must approach things differently than Washington, D.C. and hey, we’ve been doing things differently for years!
Q: So – what do we do to see a ballot measure for cannabis legalization in the future?
A: We have to lobby Georgia legislators of both parties, in the House and the Senate, to make them understand the majority of Georgians support reform and want to vote on a ballot measure.
Beyond that, we have to elect representatives who are ready to support this issue.
This is where the Georgia CARE Project and our partners come into the picture.
It is our job to talk with legislators in both chambers and explain the merits of these legal reforms.
We advocate for these issues on your behalf. As part of our #40DaysCampaign, we want to be present for all forty days of the legislative session. Legislators need to hear our message on cannabis legalization every single day. You can support that initiative by pledging to support a day or more of lobbying.
We will help organize Georgians to reach out to their representatives to let them know we want to see change. This shows them we want representatives who understand how important this issue is for the future of our state.
We have also recently launched a City by City initiative to push forward cannabis legalization reform on the local, city level across Georgia.
Please consider supporting our work today to make a difference in 2017. With your help, we will all have the opportunity to vote on a ballot measure.