At halfway point, GA medical marijuana bill in trouble

1:45 AM, Feb 24, 2014   |    comments
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  • State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon)
  • Marijuana leaf
  • Marijuana legalization activist James Bell of Georgia C.A.R.E. Project
  • Parents of children with seizures lobby for medical marijuana

ATLANTA - Just over a month ago, State Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) admitted he knew next to nothing about medical marijuana.

But when he met families of several young children whose life-threatening seizures might be soothed by cannabis oil from the plant, he became its champion.

His House Bill 885 has been sailing along at a furious pace in Georgia's conservative legislature, but at the half way point, it's run into a potentially fatal road block.

"They cannot import it from Colorado or any of the other 20 states that have legal (medical) marijuana and without (a) local supply, the bill's dead," James Bell of Georgia C.A.R.E. Project told 11Alive News on Sunday.

Pro-legalization activist Bell points out that federal law won't let Georgia import any form of marijuana from another state and state law won't allow it to be grown here.

So with no source, the bill is in serious trouble.

"These people are going to the black market in order to get medicine, the cannabis medicine, so they're creating criminals out of people that should not be criminal," Bell said.

Rep. Peake told 11Alive on Friday that he's trying to re-write his bill after the supply concerns came up in recent committee hearings.

The supply snag could mean the issue is dead for now and may have to return next year.

But earlier in the session, Peake said time is of the essence.

"There are children that are suffering that, if we waited a year to do a study commission, may not live," he said.

Bell is hoping lawmakers can re-write Georgia law to allow marijuana to be cultivated in a supervised setting and strictly controlled by doctors and/or pharmacists.

Georgia passed a medical marijuana law in 1980 to benefit glaucoma and chemotherapy patients, but it never became reality thanks to the lack of a supply source from the federal government.

With nearly half of this year's 40-day legislative session over, another controversial issue could still run into trouble.

Last Tuesday the State House overwhelmingly approved a gun bill that would allow anyone who's at least 21 and who has a weapons license to carry a gun into churches or bars that don't mind.

The same measure stalled last year over a provision to allow those same licensed adults to carry a gun on college campuses.

That clause was dropped from this year's version, but it still decriminalizes that act for people with weapons licenses to only a $100 fine.

That could still spell trouble when the State Senate begins considering the bill.

The move to prevent so many children from dying under DFCS supervision is making headway.

Last week the Senate passed a bill to privatize many services of the Division of Family and Children Services.

Another bill still being considered would put the GBI in charge of keeping track of those deaths and providing more transparent details.

All of this comes as lawmakers are in a rush to finish on March 20, about a month earlier than usual.

That's because it's an election year, the primary has been moved up to May 20 and lawmakers cannot raise campaign funds during the session.

March 3 will also mark an important watershed under the Gold Dome.

Known as "Crossover Day," it's the last day a bill can be considered if it hasn't already passed either the House or the Senate and made it to the other body.

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