For the past two sessions of the Georgia General Assembly, advocates for medical marijuana have seen their efforts come to naught at the end of the state legislative body. But in the 2015 session of the Peach State’s legislature, which begins in January, there is a renewed hope for passage of a medical marijuana bill.
HB1, which has been pre-filed by Republican Representative Allen Peake of Macon, would allow parents of children who suffer from severe seizures to have access to cannabidiol oil, which is made from an extract of the cannabis plant and has proven effective in dramatically reducing the number and severity of seizures in some children. But unlike the legislation Peake introduced in 2014, this year’s version would also allow doctors to dispense cannabis for multiple sclerosis, ALS, Chron’s disease, cancer, glaucoma, autism, and chronic pain. The bill has widespread support in the Republican-controlled legislature, including the blessings of House Speaker David Ralston. Earlier this week, Ralston told the press:
“I really, fervently hope that — and I expect — the House will move House Bill 1 quickly. And I hope the Senate will look at that issue on its own merits and join with us in passing that bill. Representative Peake has done as good a job pushing a piece of legislation as I’ve seen in a lot of years around this building. He brings great passion and just heartfelt concern for these families on this issue. But he’s done his homework. And I think you’re going to see a very well thought-out and very well put-together bill and I’m hoping we can pass that quickly and get it over to the Senate, and that they will pass it quickly and that we can address that issue.”
Samantha Dayton of Atlanta is the mother of a 7-year-old son, Brady, and says the bill is needed for children such as hers. “It’s time we stop demonizing this drug just because of what we have heard in the past. If it can help children and others with these terrible diseases, then we owe it to them to find a way to help ease their suffering.”
This being the Deep South, however, there is opposition to the medical marijuana legislation. Virginia Galloway, a spokesperson for the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia told a legislative study committee Wednesday that group has serious concerns about the lack of adequate scientific research on the efficacy of medical marijuana. Galloway also said there are potential problems with monitoring the use of marijuana, as well as the legal issues involving federal laws on marijuana. “I have sympathy for the families (of children) with these conditions,” Galloway said. “But does that mean we simply jump into this issue without more study and research?”
For his part, Rep. Peake says he remains opposed to any attempt by some pro-cannabis groups who want Georgia to place a referendum on the ballot and allow the voters to choose whether or not the state legalizes recreational use of marijuana, as has been done in Colorado. “(This bill) is not a slippery slope toward legalization of cannabis for recreational use,” Peake said. “I stand firmly against that direction and will fight it with all my energy.”