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Greg Bluestein

Gov. Deal etches a path toward legalizing medical marijuana

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Lawmakers from both chambers passed a bill allowing the limited use of medical marijuana, but it failed to gain final approval amid infighting.

Lawmakers from both chambers passed a bill allowing the limited use of medical marijuana, but it failed to gain final approval amid infighting.

Infighting between lawmakers scuttled the legislative push to allow the limited use of medical marijuana, but a path ahead is now becoming clearer.

We told you last week how Deal is exploring administrative action to allow families to use a form of cannabis oil to treat debilitating seizures, part of a strategy to take executive action where lawmakers failed. He elaborated on just what he’s considering at a campaign stop in Athens over the weekend.Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blog

The Athens Banner-Herald reported he said he was considering creating a state project under a college – perhaps the Georgia Regents University – to provide a scientific environment to start clinical trials, paving the way for legislation down the road. From the story:

“It’s important for us to understand that this is not an issue we want to open the floodgate on. It has to be done in a controlled environment,” Deal said. “If we can move it in that direction it will lay the foundation for us to do something legislatively in future sessions. That’s where we are trying to move.”

The governor elaborated on it this morning in an interview. He said one of the reasons he is exploring the academic option is because transporting marijuana across state lines is a felony federal offense, but the state could have more leeway to grow it at a research school. Georgia Regents also has long-standing agreements with state health agencies that could be leveraged.

“We think they would be a perfectly suited institution. They are a research institution, and as I explained on Saturday, I think this approach would be similar to having a clinical-type trial,” Deal said, adding: “They could validate, document and keep the records so we know whether what we’ve tried is actually working or not.”

State Rep. Allen Peake, the bill’s chief sponsor, told us he welcomed Deal’s strategy and was optimistic it would work.

“We just found hurdles in the academic environment that were going to require lengthy FDA approval that these children can’t wait on,” said Peake, R-Macon. “But possibly the power of the governor’s involvement may move the beaucracratic process a lot quicker.”

Whether Deal has the legal authority to do so is another question. Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears told WABE that she thinks the governor needs to tread lightly or risk “invading the province of the Legislature.” Said Sears:

“He’d have to be very creative, but creative things often pass muster, maybe an experimental pilot project. There might be other things in other state laws that allow a governor to do something temporarily.”

***

The legal wrangling by Martin Luther King Jr.’s heirs has caught the daughter of another Atlanta civil rights leader in its wake.

Andrea Young, the daughter of Andrew Young, has taken a leave of absence from the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the downtown attraction set to open on May 30. The Saporta Report links the decision to a dispute between the Andrew Young Foundation, which she runs, and the King Estate over claims that Young is infringing on the civil rights icon’s intellectual property rights.

Saporta caught up with Andrea Young, who offered this:

“I said to the board, because of allegations made by the King Estate against the Andrew Young Foundation and me as executive director, I felt I had no choice but to take a leave of absence from the Center’s board until the matter had been resolved to avoid any adverse impact on the Center,” Andrea Young said in a telephone interview.

***

Georgia politicians may not be fans of the Common Core education guidelines, but the state seems to be good at implementing them.

A recently released report from the Southern Regional Education Board named Georgia a “leading state” when it comes to embracing the controversial standards and gave it the highest marks in the categories of teaching resources and accountability.

Superintendent John Barge, a supporter of the standards and a challenger to Gov. Nathan Deal in the GOP primary, took it as a reason to celebrate:

“The implementation of the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards has been embraced by our teachers, and kids are now being challenged at higher levels, which is critical for them to compete for jobs and spots in the colleges of their choice.”

***

In the Republican primary in the coastal First Congressional District, John McCallum already has the backing of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, McCallum’s former boss.

The 90s nostalgia will continue with a forthcoming endorsement from Bob Dole. The connection here is McCallum’s wife, Heather Whitestone McCallum, a former Miss America. Heather, who is hearing impaired, was the first Miss America with a disability.

Here’s what John McCallum told us Friday:

“Heather was a national surrogate for Dole when he ran for president and we were very actively involved. And we, by the grace of God really, on Election Day ’96 the Doles asked us to spend the day with them. … We were super fortunate to kind of have them take them under their wing when we were a young couple and befriend us and let us be a part of that thing.”

Keep an eye out for a deep dive on the First District primary later this week in the AJC.

***

In other endorsement news, the pro-gun group Georgia Carry is backing state Rep. Delvis Dutton of Glenville in the 12th District Republican primary. The winner of the GOP race faces U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta.

The quintet of Republicans in the 12th — Dutton, Rick Allen, Eugene Yu, John Stone and Diane Vann — will debate tonight in Bulloch County.

***

We told you recently about a video showing David Perdue saying “I’m not going to go up there and tell you I’m going to repeal Dodd-Frank. I will tell you I’m going to fight to amend it.”

This gave a clear opening to his GOP foes in the U.S. Senate race.

But speaking with Martha Zoller on WGAU (1340 AM) this morning, Perdue insisted he has always wanted to repeal Dodd-Frank:

“I don’t know where all that came from. Frankly, I’m the first one in the race, last year … what I kept saying a year ago, Dodd-Frank is just being implemented. As we sit here today, it’s only about 40 percent implemented, and yet we can begin to see how insidious this law is.

“I called for its repeal repeatedly over the last year. In the meantime I can’t sit back and just say, hey, let these small banks go out of business and dry up on the vine and let these small businesses starve to death for borrowing. We’ve got to do something to help get the money flowing.”

Perdue later went on to say he was “deathly afraid” of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Dodd-Frank, because Congress won’t control its purse strings.

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