Medical marijuana, Medicaid bills likely up for vote Monday

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Many controversial proposals — including one allowing limited access to medical marijuana and one prohibiting the governor from expanding access to Medicaid — are expected to be debated on the floor of the Ga. House of Representatives Monday.

The 30th day of the legislative session will likely go late into the night. Monday is Crossover Day. On this day, a bill has to pass the House or Senate to have a chance of becoming law during this session.

“The most controversial bills always hit on day 30,” said State Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto.

The House Rules Committee decides which bills will be sent to the House for consideration, and the Speaker of the House then decides what bills to “call.”

The Rules Committee has set a short, basic calendar, but will meet Monday to add more bills, and will likely meet several times throughout the day.

The calendar was drafted Wednesday. The House however, wasn’t in session Thursday or Friday, but committees were meeting regarding bills not final on Wednesday.

One of the most controversial bills likely to be debated Monday is House Bill 885, known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act.”

It would allow limited use of cannabis-derived oil, which is low in THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but high in cannibidiol, which has been used to reduce seizures in children in other states, notably Colorado.

The bill passed out of the House Health and Human Services. One setback of the bill was locating a source for the cannabis oil. Bill sponsor Allen Peake, R-Macon, added a provision allowing medical schools to grow, produce, and prescribe the product.

The bill will likely make it to the House floor Monday, and, according to Stover, will make it through the House.” The bill has received widespread support, with approximately 80 co-signers, including Stover.

“However, there has been pushback from the Senate,” Stover said. “They want to form a study committee to study the issue.”

Even if the bill passes, State Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan, thinks actual medical treatment with marijuana derivatives is “still going to be years out.”

She’s not as confident as Stover that the bill will even make it to the floor on Monday.

Other controversial bills are HB 990 and HB 707.

HB 990 would require legislative approval of any expansion of Medicaid in Georgia. Currently, expansion is decided by the governor. And HB 707 would prohibit government employees, agencies, contractors and the like from taking actions to advocate for Medicaid expansion, set up health care exchanges, or set up “navigator” programs. It would also prohibit the state insurance commissioner from taking any action to enforce provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Stover is a primary co-sponsor of the bill.

Smith said she expects HB 990 to draw a lot of debate. “I support the idea, because we don’t know what is going to happen down the road,” she said.



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