California gets $14 billion, but what about Georgia?
Filed Under: Politics, US | Posted: 02/28/2009 at 8:28AM
Comments | Region: United States
ATLANTA – "Marijuana could become an ideal agricultural export for Georgia," I inform the concierge. She smiles warmly and says that it is not her decision. I am in an upscale hotel in Atlanta, operating in a broad space that appears to be overseen by the concierge. Many decisions can be made in this environment.
Tommy Irvin, the Commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Agriculture, is the longest-serving statewide official in Georgia – as well as in the United States. Agriculture is big business here.
According to the USDA, Georgia’s 2006 cash receipts from agriculture were $6 billion. Georgia is the largest land area east of the Mississippi, and its number one agricultural product is the broiler (aka the young chicken). Referencing 2006 data, the state ranked number one in the U.S. in the production of broilers, cucumbers, peanuts, and squash.
I spoke with Commissioner Irvin’s public affairs department on the question of whether or not Georgia’s Department of Agriculture would lobby the state legislature in support of decriminalizing marijuana, but they were unable to comment. I was told that someone who could speak on the matter would get back to me. At this story’s deadline, I had not heard from them.
A spokesperson for California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano – who is currently pursuing the legalization of marijuana in California – claims that marijuana is a $14 billion annual crop for the state.
In Atlanta, there is optimism around the relatively new aquarium – as a draw for tourism. The cab drivers and hotel staff are clearly proud when talking about the aquarium, however Atlanta is not exactly the fish-watching family destination one might find in Orlando or in Los Angeles.
There are heated debates across Georgia currently about overturning blue laws to allow alcohol sales on Sundays. While Georgia is cash-strapped it is also conservative socially and politically.
Citing Rajeev Dhawan, Director of the Economic Forecasters Center at Georgia State University, tens of thousands of layoffs are on Georgia’s horizon.
"Georgia’s unemployment growth will be negative for the next two years," he said.
This brings us back to weed.
Georgia benefits as a prospect for marijuana growth and trade, given its humid climate and its abundant agricultural experience. If California moves forward with legalizing marijuana, the southeast states – with Georgia at the hub – should look at the market values and revenues associated with the crop.
It is a tough call in a state that still has blue laws on the books, and I ask my concierge friend if she believes me to be a carpetbagger. By her tired expression I know it is neither of our decisions.