Gwinnett solicitor on marijuana: 'It's out there, so let's make it legal'

Gwinnett solicitor on marijuana: 'It's out there, so let's make it legal'

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — There's a new proposal to legalize all forms of marijuana in Georgia, and the man pushing the idea and organizing lawmakers is a prosecutor.

Gwinnett County Solicitor Brian Whiteside told Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas that the time has come and he thinks it could help raise some $4 billion in tax revenue.

“We are asking marijuana be legalized and taxed at a normal rate,” Whiteside said.

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While it still might face a big uphill battle at the state Capitol, Whiteside said his office has at least some bipartisan support for the plan.

“Some people might be surprised a prosecutor is the one introducing this. Well, they can be surprised,” Whiteside said. “It's out there, so let’s make it legal.”

Under Whiteside's plan, Georgia would legalize all forms of marijuana and then tax it at what he said is a “normal rate.”

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“It's very important that we have the taxation at a rate that doesn't have black marketing,” Whiteside told Thomas.

Whiteside said under his plan, the billions of new tax dollars could be directed to police and firefighters' pension funds and education, specifically two-year technical schools, day care and pre-K.

Earlier this year, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law legalizing medical marijuana with promises it wouldn't be a gateway to further legalization.

Kemp’s office would not comment on Whiteside’s plan, but the Georgia Police Chiefs Association is speaking out.

Assistant Executive Director Dwayne Orrick said his group just passed a resolution this month opposing the recreational use of pot.

“There's a huge case in impaired driving,” Orrick said. “Black market sales actually go up, as well. And you can't control those markets as you can a legal market.”

“What do you think the odds are that it passes?” Thomas asked Whiteside.

“I don't know what the odds are,” Whiteside said.

Whiteside told Thomas the tax rate is key to avoid a black market developing like what has occurred in Colorado and other states where the rate was set at 15%.

This is just a proposal that has to be introduced by a lawmaker at the Capitol. The next legislative session starts in January.