Johnny Isakson clarifies: He only supports rescheduling cannabis oil

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Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price, R-Ga., left, arrives with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, center, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., on Capitol Hill at Price’s confirmation hearing in January. AP/Andrew Harnik

Updated at 1:12 p.m.: A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson clarified that the Republican only supports rescheduling cannabis oil under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s system, not marijuana more broadly.

Original post: 

Our friends over at GeorgiaPol are pointing to what was more than a little buried during last week’s health care bonanza in D.C.:  U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson may not support decriminalization, but he does favor the removal of marijuana from the Schedule 1 list of banned drugs — which now lumps pot with controlled substances such as heroin and LSD.

The Republican’s remarks came 35 minutes into a telephone town hall last week when he was asked about the subject by a constituent with multiple sclerosis. Isakson touted the medical benefits of cannabis oil, as well as work in the state Legislature to expand access for people fighting severe illnesses such as cancer:

“I think cannabis oil derived from marijuana can be helpful and under regulation for medical purposes should be allowed. I’m not for just totally decriminalizing marijuana, however, because although everyone who takes it doesn’t become a drug addict, I’ve heard many people say anybody who was ever a drug addict started with marijuana. We don’t want to start that foundation or make it too easy to get.”

Pressed by the caller, Isakson also addressed the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a ranking that is reserved for substances with the highest potential for abuse and lowest medicinal value. Said the senator:

“In the scheme of things, it’s miscalculated in the schedule.”

“The Russ Belville Show” has the entire two-minute exchange here.

Isakson’s remarks are notable. Although Congress has taken baby steps toward revisiting marijuana laws in recent years, as GeorgiaPol notes, chatter about rescheduling marijuana last year did not turn into any action in D.C.

In fact, the recent appointment of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general has prompted worries of a crackdown in states that have legalized marijuana not just for medicinal purposes, but for recreational use by adults as well.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, perhaps the biggest advocate for loosening marijuana laws in the Legislature for medicinal purposes, was certainly happy with Isakson’s position:

It’s worth noting that Parkinson’s disease, which Isakson has been suffering from for several years, is one of the eight illnesses that are allowed to be treated with cannabis oil under the state’s 2015 law.

Read more about medical marijuana in Georgia.

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder slammed the House GOP plan to redraw the district boundaries for eight Republicans and one Democrat as a “last-minute” power grab and urged the state Senate and Gov. Nathan Deal to reject the plan.

Holder now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and he cited a story by our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin in assailing the plan. It was approved this month by the House, largely along party lines, and is now pending in the Senate, which is expected to add its own district changes.

“The Georgia House’s last-minute power grab is political map-rigging at its worst. In a brazen political move, the House moved African-American voters out of swing districts to protect incumbents,” said Holder.

“Voters should choose their elected representatives, not the other way around. Instead, politicians in the Georgia House chose their voters behind closed doors in a secretive process without voter input,” the statement added. “Gov. Deal and the Georgia Senate should reject this attempt to rig the political system.”

The changes help a pair of Republicans whose districts have steadily become more competitive: state Reps. Rich Golick and Brian Strickland.

Asked about the measure before the vote, House Speaker David Ralston invoked a Democratic plan to redraw legislative districts in the early 2000s that was tossed by a federal judge.

“I look for something a little more persuasive than what I’ve been hearings so far today,” he said of Democratic criticism. “The proposals – I’ve looked at them – and they hurt no member of the House of Representatives at all. Period.”

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Not a fan of the Congressional Budget Office’s review of the House GOP healthcare plan? Abolish the office.

That’s what former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday on Fox News after the office reported that 24 million fewer people could get coverage under the contentious proposal.

“It is corrupt. It is dishonest. It was totally wrong on Obamacare by huge, huge margins. I don’t trust a single word they have published. And I don’t believe them.”

The host, Martha MacCallum, interrupted him: “But the head of it is a Trump appointee.”

Gingrich was unfazed. “I couldn’t care less,” he said.

For those of you wonks really interested in diving into the subject, one of your Insiders in a past life co-wrote this opus about the 43-year-old law that created the Congressional Budget Office and how it fundamentally altered how Washington does its fiscal business.


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