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Greg Bluestein

Georgia Republicans back “in-state access” to medical marijuana

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Haleigh Cox was the inspiration behind House Bill 1, which allows the limited use of cannabis oil to treat disorders that include cancer, sickle cell disease and epilepsy as long as a physician signs off. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill this spring. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

Haleigh Cox was the inspiration behind House Bill 1, which allows the limited use of cannabis oil to treat disorders that include cancer, sickle cell disease and epilepsy as long as a physician signs off. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

The campaign to dramatically expand Georgia’s medical marijuana program got a boost when delegates to the Georgia Republican convention endorsed a resolution to support “in-state access” of cannabis oil and allow patients suffering from a range of additional medical conditions to qualify for the drug.

The resolution adopted at the party’s meeting in Augusta Saturday was a vote of confidence for Republican state Rep. Allen Peake’s measure to broaden the list of medical conditions eligible for medical marijuana and eventually allow Georgia manufacturers to grow the plant.

That proposal stalled this year amid opposition from his fellow Republicans and a skeptical Gov. Nathan Deal. While the governor signed legislation last year that makes it legal for patients who suffer from cancer and some other illnesses to possess the drug, he’s said the decision to allow in-state cultivation of the medical marijuana should be left to federal lawmakers.

The grass-roots activists endorsed the resolution to support “in-state access and expanded diagnoses for prescribing” the drug after a brief debate. It’s another sign the debate is shifting among some rank-and-file Republicans, even if law enforcement officials remain unconvinced.

A state-issued license to possess medicinal marijuana. AJC file

A state-issued license to possess medicinal marijuana. AJC file

Many supporters of the medical marijuana expansion have confessed to openly flouting federal law by traveling to Colorado or other states that have legalized marijuana to bring back the drug. While Georgia law allows some patients to possess cannabis oil with a doctor’s permission, it does not permit the in-state cultivation of the plant.

“I’m a law-abiding citizen who is forced to commit a felony every single day and other families are forced to commit those same felonies just to care for their children,” said Dale Jackson, the 3rd District GOP chair and the father of an autistic son who relies upon medical marijuana for treatment.

“Most of us here would, in principle, disagree with legalizing drugs. But this resolution speaks specifically to medicine – medicine that my 8-year-old son needs.”

Peake celebrated the resolution by vowing to revive his legislation next year.

Here’s a look at the full resolution here. (Apologies for the crumb.)