Governor Race in Georgia: Where Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp Stand on Marijuana Legalization

Here we break down how Georgia’s gubernatorial candidates feel about marijuana laws.

This year’s Georgia governor’s race is of particular importance to residents hoping for cannabis law reform. Whether voters elect former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams or Secretary of State Brian Kemp as their next governor will likely impact the future of legal marijuana in the state.

Georgia is one of the few states to have passed laws allowing medical cannabis while not providing patients any legal way to get it. Patients diagnosed with more than a dozen illnesses can register with the state and possess up to 20 ounces of low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabis oil. However, the state doesn’t allow for in-state cultivation, forcing families to obtain cannabis elsewhere and transport it across state lines, risking defying federal law.

Supporters of medical marijuana in the Peach State have been working tirelessly to create a true medical marijuana program, but have been unable to pass legislation through the General Assembly. Plus, outgoing Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has repeatedly said he would not support cannabis cultivation in the state, requiring cannabis advocates in Georgia to wait until his successor takes office.

Where Abrams and Kemp stand on marijuana could influence support from voters, even from members of their own parties. A recent poll from Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA-TV found that 72 percent of Georgia voters believe that the state should allow state-regulated cultivation of marijuana to produce legal cannabis oil. In that same survey, 55 percent of voters said they favored legalizing recreational marijuana.

Here we break down how each of Georgia’s major gubernatorial candidates feel about marijuana laws.

Stacey Abrams (D)

  • Recreational Marijuana Legalization: Supports decriminalizing marijuana and is open to legalization for recreational use
  • Medical Marijuana Legalization: Supports the legalization of medical marijuana and allowing in-state cultivation

Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams was an early backer of medical marijuana, first voicing her support for legislation while serving as a state Representative in 2015.

More recently, Abrams has said she supports expanding Georgia’s medical marijuana law to allow in-state cultivation, as she believes it’s a way to fight prescription drug abuse.

“I believe in the expansion of medical marijuana because it’s an important step to combat the opioid crisis,” Abrams said at a February press conference.

Regarding adult use marijuana, Abrams has said she would seek to decriminalize some marijuana offenses. She has proposed a statewide policy similar to Atlanta’s, which calls for a maximum fine of $75 and no mandatory jail time for possession of small amounts.

In a tweet sent earlier this year, Abrams said she is also open to legalizing recreational marijuana, provided there’s a strong substance abuse network in place.

Brian Kemp (R)

  • Recreational Marijuana Legalization: Opposes legalization and decriminalization of adult use marijuana
  • Medical Marijuana Legalization: Supports Georgia’s medical marijuana program, but opposes legislation that would allow marijuana to be grown legally in the state

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp has said he supports a limited expansion of Georgia’s medical marijuana program, but opposes in-state cultivation of cannabis.

In an interview posted on his campaign website, Kemp referred to himself as “open-minded” about medical cannabis and said that he is “very supportive of what [Georgia’s] legislature has done in the past.”

In a Republican gubernatorial debate earlier this year, Kemp said he supports “research-based expansion” of the program.

“If there’s research there that shows an expansion that could even lead to cultivation,” he said, “I’d definitely be open and supportive to doing that.”

Kemp remains opposed to legalizing or decriminalizing recreational marijuana. He has said that he has concerns that legalizing recreational marijuana at the state-level “could be putting … citizens in a jeopardizing situation where they think they are following state law but can be prosecuted for violating federal law.”

He added: “I’m certainly not in the camp of being pro-recreational marijuana.”

Marijuana in the November Election

You can learn more about cannabis laws in Georgia through our education page.

Read more about where candidates running for election in 2018 stand on marijuana legalization by visiting our Election 2018 page.