Legislative Review

Medical marijuana bill not among those passing

by Sarah Fay Campbell

A flurry of bills passed in the final hours of the Georgia General Assembly session late Thursday.

However, bills allowing limited use of medical cannabis and privatizing the state’s child welfare system were not among them. Also failing to pass was “religious liberty” language that was tied onto other bills.

House Bill 885, intended to legalize a limited use of cannabidiol oil produced from marijuana, received overwhelming support throughout the session. On March 13 however, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee added language to HB 885 requiring insurance companies to cover applied behavioral treatment for children 6 and under with autism. That mandate, opposed by the House, ended up being the final straw in the bill’s eventual death.

Late Thursday, HB 885’s author, Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, managed to uncouple the cannabis language from the autism mandate, but the Senate did not consider the latest version.

Nonetheless, the fight will continue. A bill was passed that will create a study committee to begin research on the issue, while Peake has vowed to continue the battle.

With the session continuing late into the night, limited information was available on Friday regarding bills that passed and what they contained.

Some bills approved include:

• HB 826 strikes down “zero tolerance” in schools. Under the bill, schools have the authority to deal with minor weapons violations instead of having students who bring knives or other “weapons” into schools arrested and charged.

HB 826 doesn’t apply to guns or explosives brought into schools, and will still allow for prosecution if a weapon is used in a threatening manner.

• Senate Bill 365 is the third leg of the state’s “criminal justice reform” and focuses on helping ease the transition from prison to freedom. It requires education, vocational training and substance-abuse counseling for prisoners.

It also protects employers, schools and landlords accepting applications from former prisoners from being sued by victims of new crimes committed by the former prisoners.

• Senate Resolution 415 proposes a constitutional amendment that would prevent the legislature from increasing the state income tax over a “set maximum marginal rate.” The current rate is 6 percent. Georgia voters will decide in November whether or not that amendment is actually made to the constitution.

• HB 714 prevents contracted school bus drivers and cafeteria workers from receiving unemployment benefits during summer and school holidays. The bill will take effect Jan. 1, unless vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

• HB 828 makes it illegal for first responders, hospital employees, police officers and tow-truck drivers to disclose information, for pay, to “runners” who are looking for customers for lawyers, doctors and chiropractors. The bill also prohibits the release of information about accidents for 60 days to any member of the public other than journalists.

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