Growing medical pot in GA takes first step at Capitol

Medical marijuana, although legal in Georgia, can be very difficult for patients to get ahold of; but a new state bill aimed at making that process easier had its first hearing at the state capitol Monday.

House Bill 722, or the “Medical Cannabis Cultivation Bill,” seeks to allow for medical pot to be grown, tested and harvested in Georgia.

Right now, while it’s legal to possess medical pot in Georgia, it can’t be grown here; meaning if the very limited product available in in the state doesn’t work for you, you have to go to another state and bring it back across state lines, which is a federal crime.

“We’ve, in effect, for all practical purposes, made criminals out of people who want to help their hurting children,” said Representative Allen Peake, the Republican from District 141 (Macon) who is sponsoring the bill.

Rep. Allen Peake, (R) Macon, is sponsoring HB 722.
Rep. Allen Peake, (R) Macon, is sponsoring HB 722.

If passed, HB 722 would allow between 2-6 licensees to grow medical marijuana in Georgia and expand the conditions it can be prescribed for (alzheimer’s, tourette’s, and PTSD among others).

However, it would require a “Seed to Sale” tracking system be put in place, independent lab testing, and will only be allowed in pill or oil form, smoking will still be illegal.

It also spells out rules for one to be prescribed medical pot: a person must be certified by a physician as having the ailment claimed and then a pharmacist at a dispensary must do a consultation before providing the medical cannabis.

“The core question at the heart of this issue is, ‘What would I do if this was my child that was suffering from one of these debilitating illnesses?’,” said Peake. “That’s kind what’s been the driving force for me. That’s why it doesn’t matter if you’re republican or democrat, rich or poor, if you have a sick child, you’re going to do everything in your power to be able to provide medicine for them.”

But even with significant support on both sides of the aisle, the bill is going to see a lot of push back, especially from law enforcement.

“We’re not callus, we have feelings for these people. If a sick child can take a drop of cannabis oil and it makes them feel better then I’m all for it, but on the other hand I see the slippery slope,” said Garden City Police Chief David Lyons. “I think all of law enforcement in the state sees that and this is a slippery slope that we don’t want to get on.”

Lyons told News 3 he worries these small steps will lead to eventual full-legalization of marijuana, including for recreational use, but Peake disagrees.

“I’ve been very clear that I have not and will never support legalization of marijuana for recreational use,” said Peake. “In fact, I will fight it as passionately as I’m fighting for these children to have access.”

Monday’s hearing was just the first of at least three hearings for the bill.

On Wednesday those opposed to it will get a chance to argue their side, then some time around the first week of February there will be a vote of whether or not it’ll make it out of the committee.  If approved there, it would then go to the floor of the House for a final vote.

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