Ginseng bill brings jokes, final passage

Georgia ginseng will get an extra two weeks to mature before harvest under legislation headed to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

Senate Bill 81 was given final passage in the House on Thursday. The bill, requested by the state Department of Natural Resources, will help boost supplies of wild ginseng, a key ingredient in products such as energy drinks and cosmetics.

Ginseng grows wild, mostly in the North Georgia mountains, where harvesters pick the plant for its roots. Once dried, the roots as recently as 2011 fetched about $350 per pound. Much of it is sold to China.

Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, presented the bill in the House and said some people say ginseng “is like coffee, Viagra and Prozac all together. That’s why people pay $350 a pound for it.”

That line led to a series of playful questions from colleagues.

The bill also prompted this quip about the Senate from Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge: “So this what they’ve been doing over there?”