Posted: 9:00 am Saturday, February 1st, 2014

A surprising, mad dash to legalize medicinal pot in Georgia 

By Jim Galloway

You’ve seen the magazine ad: “You can save this child, or you can turn the page.” And the TV spots with the caged, abused puppies: “The situation is urgent, so we’re asking you to join in the next 10 minutes.”

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, has drafted the legislative equivalent — a bill that will brook no delay, lest you be overwhelmed with guilt. Peake wants medical marijuana made legal in Georgia within the next several weeks.

Not a blue-ribbon panel. Not a study commission, as has been pitched by state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

030513 leg day care 01

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. AJC file

House Bill 885 would be the real thing: outright protected status for the non-intoxicating oil made from cannabis, which has been shown — at least anecdotally — to substantially reduce seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy.

“The reality is, some of these kids don’t have a year. If we do a study or commission, they’ll die,” Peake said. “They’ll continue to suffer every day from additional seizures. They’ll continue to have their brain torn apart by every seizure that hits them every day.”

Or you can turn the page. It’s that kind of bill.

Aside from the after-effects of that pesky bit of snow, Peake’s measure to legalize medical marijuana is the biggest storm brewing in the state Capitol. And in an environment that is often cold and calculating, the sponsoring legislator admits that his commitment is an emotional one.

He’s fallen hard and fast. Four weeks ago, he couldn’t spell “cannabidiol,” the component in cannabis — Peake’s bill eschews the word “marijuana” — said to prevent or subdue seizures.

He has posted a video of the families he’s trying to help on his Facebook page — which you can see above. This weekend, Peake is headed for Colorado to visit a pair of Georgia families who have moved to that state, where recreational pot is legal, to get access to the medicine their kids need.

The Macon lawmaker has personally latched on to 4-year-old Haleigh Cox of nearby Monroe County, who suffers from seizures. “She looked just like my granddaughter. It really did hit me. If it were your child, you would be pushing us to do everything we can,” Peake said. “That was kind of the trigger point for me.”

His bill has 90 or so co-sponsors in a House with 180 members, and a first committee hearing Feb. 10, at which Peake plans to present the suffering kids, their parents and more than a few experts. He’s been trying to invite CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, an Emory University neurologist who has done a documentary on medicinal pot. (Dear CNN publicity department: This sounds like an opportunity worth exploring.)

Peake’s Capitol colleagues, even some of those who have signed onto his bill, are quietly expressing discomfort with the mad dash toward a mid-March finish line. Peake, himself, has picked up a Republican primary opponent.

“I’ve gotten to the place that I could care less about what this does to me politically, good or bad,” Peake said. “But it’s not fair for me to force that on my colleagues.”

And so he has made every effort to give them cover. He’s obtained declarations of neutrality from law enforcement groups. He’s reached out to tea partyers and religious groups — Catholics and Baptists. “We’re trying to build a coalition to protect my colleagues,” Peake said.

At every opportunity, Peake condemns the recreational use of marijuana.

“What I kept hearing when I jumped into this thing is that (the bill) needed to be tightly restricted, very regulated, managed by doctors, limited in scope, in oil-based form. That’s what we drew up,” he said. “We had to fight the perception from some of my colleagues that we were going to go down a path allowing 6-year-olds to smoke a joint and that we were going to have pot shops on every corner. Or that any physician in the state could prescribe it.”

Even so, many of his fellow legislators point to the obvious fact that the federal government has long banned marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. But Peake points out that 20 states have legalized medicinal marijuana. (Of those, Colorado and Washington also permit recreational use.)

The status of marijuana and its cousins is indeed changing. The farm bill now jetting through Congress — final passage could come this week — would allow academic institutions and state agencies in a handful of states to grow and research hemp without fear of prosecution by the federal government.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, identified himself as a lead negotiator on the inclusion of the hemp provision.

In Georgia, if Peake’s bill passes the House, it’s sure to undergo hefty scrutiny in the Senate, where Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, is chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee.

For years, groups backing the legal use of recreational marijuana have pressed their issue here, she noted. Unterman needs to be convinced that Peake’s bill isn’t an unwitting Trojan horse. “I just want to make sure the children aren’t being exploited for a bigger issue,” she said Friday. “That has to be alleviated before senators will consider this.”

As for Peake, he says that, in this case, haste may be exactly what people are looking for these days.

“Wouldn’t it be great to share with the public that government didn’t slow down the process, but that government — when we took a good honest look at the problem and the potential solution, that we moved quickly to fix it?” he asked.

“That’s what you saw on the snowstorm. That’s what everybody was complaining about last week,” he said. “We didn’t move quick enough.”

190 comments
JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

Georgia Dept of Agriculture has no clue about the farm bill that just passed that legalized hemp.  They said that they have received several calls about it today already. I could hear people laughing in the background when I called. 

Georgia Department of Agriculture
19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr., S.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Tele: (404) 656-3600
Toll Free: (800) 282-5852

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

Marijuana will soon be legal in Georgia for medical and religious purposes.  It's only a matter of time.


Mommy2Chesney
Mommy2Chesney

All of you that are against this bill, do you have children? Do any of them have life threatning illnesses? Have you ever spent a week or two in a Children's Hospital to see the pain, the suffering, the hurt in the children's and the parents eyes, the loss, and even more, the LOVE they all have for each other? I personally, have NEVER done a drug in my life. I have a daughter that is 14 months old. She spent half of her first year of life, in a Children's Hospital. She has almost died twice. She has had open heart surgery, plastic surgery, and several heart caths. I have watched my child bleed out on a table in front of me. I have seen more than any parent should see. If my child would benefit from this, I would walk on glass and move mountains for her to get it. My child would not benefit from this, but I am friends with Janea Cox and Haleigh Cox from the video above. You have no clue the Hell this family goes through daily. Her baby has over 100 seizures a day. If you are parents, could you just sit and watch that? She can't sit up, she can't play, she can't eat. Her quality of life is non-existent. Honestly, if you have not had a seriously sick child, or spent time seeing the lives of people in the hospital with sick children, then I suggest you keep your comments to yourself, and go spend some time in a Children's Hospital instead of trolling the AJC forum, leaving comments that you honestly know nothing about. 

SharonRavert
SharonRavert

 This bill is so limited in scope that it is purely worthless.  If bringing cannabis to a single patient in Georgia is the goal, this will not get us there.  It has nothing about funding and does not take science into account.  I wish Rep. Peake would have some appointments with medical professionals, law makers, law enforcement and drug policy reformers while he is visiting these parents and children in Colorado.  There is reason why these parents are choosing Co and not say Michigan or Maine.  It is because cannabis is cannabis regardless of the reason it is being used.  Patients are still being arrested in many of our state that allow cannabis consumption for medical purposes.

Seems his fear of responsible adults consuming a noteably safer substance than alcohol is holding him back from doing what is right for Georgia patients.

BlackandRed
BlackandRed

This bill is not endorsed by either Peachtree NORML and GA NORML because it violates Rule 1 of any reform on cannabis laws: It MUST be at least Revenue Neutral. It does nothing to further the cause.


The family who is working with the sponsor this bill geared for their child is no better than the soccer moms who do not understand that reform for consumers is reform for ALL consumers.


Let's keep people out of the legal system first, before we start carving exceptions 'for the children'. This mom and dad had zero compassion for anything to do with cannabis, until they realized it would help their child and make their lives as parents easier.


They refuse to work with our groups because they oppose legalization (unless it benefits someone in their lives, the very definition of hypocrisy). Very well. Walk your own path in the wilderness like the rest of us reformers have in the past 25 years, then come talk to us about your special 'needs'


How about some help for the rest of GA who responsibly use cannabis for whatever reason? As much as I hate to type it, this bill stinks. It deserves a quiet death this session it will get.

Ronin7
Ronin7

Hades has in fact frozen over as I actually agree with "Mary Elizabeth Sings" on an issue.

MoistDawg
MoistDawg

dont seem that way to me. half you dopers are the same ones that will call me the devil for lighting a cigarette in the park just as your lighting your joint. sickening

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

If you have read all the comments on this thread, you will see that all the rational, factual, and reasoned arguments have come from the "brain dead," "loser" (or loosers, as one moron keeps stating), pro-mj crowd, while the hysterical, ad homenem, disproved, comments have come from those fine citizens who want to keep mj criminalized. Why whoodathunkit!

bongoredd
bongoredd

..the history of Marijuana prohiibition is driven by racist and political ignorance..the same thing that is at the core of the mass transit issue..which led to a week of shut down last week, here again they will be 50 yrs behind the rest of the world...the State of georgia and City of Atlanta (especially under the corporate boot licking leadership of the Reed Admin) reinforces a legacy of uninspired, out dated and myopic ideology and solutions..both the Republicans and democrats are completely focused on maintainin the aparthied state theyyve worked so hard to create

MoistDawg
MoistDawg

boy you dopers are pretty mean I thought you were supposed to be a friendly bunch. i dot think the smokers ever got so angry and nasty as this bunch of doper loosers.

Scamwatcher
Scamwatcher

Am anxious too see the names of our Georgia backwoods Neanderthal knuckle draggers who will try to defeat this bill.

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

I am not opposed to decriminalizing the availability of marijuana, but I hope those enthusiasts will carefully review the actual scientific literature available regarding immediate and long-term effects(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed).  There are established adverse effects and many of the claims of beneficial medicinal use are only anecdotal at best and there is almost no well established medical benefit other than tranquilization.  I suppose society, in general, may benefit from that effect.  As several police officers have reported to me, they would much rather be called to adjudicate a marijuana party than an alcohol party (profanity laced, gun wielding, loud angry red necks versus quiet, smiling, sleepy, peaceful hippies).

Lib
Lib

Is this movement toward legalizing medical weed part of the "repuke" re-branding which we have been hearing about since the Mittens beat down of 2012?  What's next, allowing women to make their own choices?

KellyBrown
KellyBrown

When is the AJC going to go with Disqus?  This format is an improvement, but Disqus is better.

ChuckDawg
ChuckDawg

People who deny the benefits of cannabis are scored at in the same was as Holocaust deniers. Only the most ignorant of the ignorant are fighting this, and if you scratch the surface of their resistance, there is usually a direct financial benefit to them for doing so. 

BrianKelly
BrianKelly

"[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane." — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, "Federal Foolishness and Marijuana," editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997


"[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications." — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001


"[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate." — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998


"Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision." — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003


"The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses' Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine." — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995


"[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use." — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, "Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis," 1995


"When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug." — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003


"[The LFA] urges Congress and the President to enact legislation to reschedule marijuana to allow doctors to prescribe smokable marijuana to patients in need … [and] urges the US Public Health Service to allow limited access to medicinal marijuana by promptly reopening the Investigational New Drug compassionate access program to new applicants." — Lymphoma Foundation of America, January 20, 1997

ScottJacobs
ScottJacobs

Just as with cigarettes, a carefully regulated, monitored and taxed market for marijuana should be considered in Georgia as a way to make marijuana LESS accessible to children than today's underground free-for-all markets. Prohibition ironically leads to the worst and least regulated outcome of all, as we know after decades of trying it. We should monitor the ongoing experiments in other States carefully to see what works and what doesn't in keeping marijuana out of the hands of minors, and controlling marijuana intoxication in dangerous activities such as driving. Common-sense government should consider how best to reach solutions that work in modern society, and we should not be blindered by ideology and loyalty to failed policies.

KarenSparks
KarenSparks

The oil is not only helpful for children with epilepsy. It is also very helpful for treating Crohns disease, which I have. And, it is believed that the high CBD oil does this best. It  is the THC that gets you stoned, so not even a worry, there. Having said that, please legalize it. This war on drugs is archaic, and when it comes to pot, ridiculous. Marijuana was once included in the doctor's medical bag. There are far more benefits (some potentially life saving),than "risks". 

KimberlyOlson
KimberlyOlson

Proof that humans would benefit greatly from selective breeding, and culling of the weak/diseased/etc.  What a waste of resources.

RickDDay
RickDDay

@MoistDawg  LOL dopers....do you still call horses 'nags'. Do you still use the term 'whippersnappers?" Someones geezer is showing


Doper - How 'quaint'. Here, by all means, smoke yourself. To. Death.

BrianKelly
BrianKelly

@MoistDawg  


Marijuana is not "dope" and marijuana users are not "dopers". By calling marijuana users "dopers"  you only make it that much easier for everyone to see your ignorance, along with the anger, and resentment you hold towards this natural plant and it's users.


If anything, you can say that booze is the real "dope" because it makes people to the dumbest things, often become violent, and then blackout and not remember all the havoc caused by the booze, like true "dopes"

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@MoistDawg Sickening for sure. The guy lighting the joint will be arrested for using a substance less harmful than your cigarette.

RickDDay
RickDDay

@MoistDawg  This is what happens when a section of society is treated to stereotypes, draconian laws, and drool from the mouth's of prohibitionist apologists.


Yes, we don't have to be nice to bullies like you any more. Read my lips: F-OFF.


Now go outside and play with your cats. You have no business discussing adult concepts you can not comprehend.

BrianKelly
BrianKelly

@MoistDawg  ,


Again, marijuana is not "dope" and marijuana users are not "dopers". By calling marijuana users "dopers"  you only make it that much easier for everyone to see your ignorance, along with the anger, and resentment you hold towards this natural plant and it's users.


If anything, you can say that booze is the real "dope" because it makes people to the dumbest things, often become violent, and then blackout and not remember all the havoc caused by the booze, like true "dopes"


Name calling and stereotyping. It's all that prohibitionists have left to offer society since virtually every piece of marijuana propaganda out there has been thoroughly debunked and completely dismissed by a smarter than prohibitionists thought public.


Nobody can provide a real reason to continue the "War on Marijuana" because there isn't one.


You know, a little live and let live goes a real long way in ensuring a long, stress and anger free life. If someone doesn't like marijuana, then don't use it. Allow others to make their own choices about marijuana.


 The government has no business attempting to legislate morality by creating victim-less "crimes" because it simply doesn't work and has already cost the taxpayers over a trillion dollars.   


DavidThead
DavidThead

@MoistDawg  the doper losers whose state (CO) has been running a budget surplus for 3 years, is in the position to bail other states out, and generated 300k in tax revenue on day 1 of recreational use? The doper losers and policies like these certainly couldn't help GA!

KellyBrown
KellyBrown

@MoistDawg So true.  That's what happens when you get in between an addict and his drug.

RickDDay
RickDDay

@Scamwatcher  GA NORML will be watching too, and supporting sympathetic candidates during the primary.


Ask your Legislature how they feel about reforming marijuana laws.

RickDDay
RickDDay

@Ralph-43  you lost me at NIH in the URL.


That. Is. Government. Propaganda.

DavidThead
DavidThead

@Ralph-43  baically accepting a ".gov" explanation of the affects of marijuana is like reading a report from Nazi germany on how much jews like concentration camps and believing it.

DavidThead
DavidThead

@Ralph-43  you should probably do some more research Ralph! My first concern would be that you are accepting information from a ".gov" which is also an organization that has been trying to prohibit marijuana since the 30's.  There are plenty of independent, high quality, (Stanford, USC, Cal Tech, etc...) studies that prove the medicinal benefits of marijuana from being an anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, stops the spread of cancerous cells, etc....Do you know why you don't see commercials bad mouthing marijuana anymore? Such as the one in the 80's that indicated that marijuana kills brain cells? It is because the high court made them take the commercials off for lying! They ran those commercials and many other campaigns against marijuana with no evidence of their claims and have never been able to substantiate a claim that marijuana is harmful. Billions of dollars are spent every year in state's where marijuana is criminalized to prosecute, arrest, and house "criminals" of a victimless crime whereas other states that "get it" are making millions off of marijuana and helping their communities. 

sgibbs587
sgibbs587

@KimberlyOlson I just shake my head at the ignorance of some people. If you are not yet dead then you may end up with something where you should have been 'culled'.
I truly feel that people such as you are a waste of resouces

Mommy2Chesney
Mommy2Chesney

@KimberlyOlson  You come meet my child, and then have the nerve to say that to my face. I hope God has made you where you can't procreate. I feel for your children. These are not dogs, they are peoples children. You my dear, you are a prime example of what is wrong with this world today. 

Mommy2Chesney
Mommy2Chesney

@sgibbs587  Thank you Sgibbs. I am sure if her mother would have known that she would be so soulless, she would have selected the selective breeding process. 

Mommy2Chesney
Mommy2Chesney

@KellyBrown @Ronin7 @MoistDawg  I have a personal question for you.... do you have children?? If so, do they, or have they ever had a life threatening illness?? If not, have you ever spent a week or two in a Children's Hospital? If not, then I suggest that you go worry about your "bathroom schedule". 

RickDDay
RickDDay

@KellyBrown  I have one! I have one! Kelly, if you make your own choices and can live with them, why can't you extend that same courtesy to other humans too? Or do you feel the globe spins on your axis?

Ronin7
Ronin7

@KellyBrown @Ronin7@MoistDawg  As it would appear that Kelly is not up to a debate on the subject, what say you MD?   Throw it out there for the Talkmaster from Naples, FL.  Take your best shot.....

Ronin7
Ronin7

@KellyBrown @Ronin7@MoistDawg   Kelly B, good for you.  Your bathroom schedule?  I'm glad you graduated from third grade, probably top of your class.  I'll  go out on a limb and say that you really don't have a cogent thought or position to  debate marijuana being  classified as a schedule one drug.  WHAT SAY YOU....