Locals clamor for reform for med marijuana bill
by Bradley Hartsell
A month ago, Georgia State Representative Allen Peake, R-Macon, introduced a bill seeking to legalize a non-psychoactive strain of marijuana strictly for people suffering from severe seizure disorders.
As of Monday, the bill looked to be in trouble since no legal source of medical marijuana is currently available to the state.
It is against federal law to import medical marijuana from other states, such as Colorado, and it is against state law to grow marijuana of any kind in Georgia.
At the halfway point in the current General Assembly session, the once hopeful bill appears dead.
“Allen Peake introduced a bill that did not allow for any in-state cultivation. He was stuck without cultivation, and without it, there is no medical marijuana,” said James Bell of Ga. CARE Project, an organization fighting for marijuana reform in Georgia.
Bell says Peake has issues with THC, the principal psychoactive component of cannabis and virtually all other uses of marijuana besides strictly medical treatment for seizures.
“He thought he was going to go Colorado and import the [cannabis] oils and everything was going to be good,” explained Bell of how the bill was drawn up without a clear source for the medicinal marijuana. “He’s trying to sell one thing and the bill reads another.”
A request to Peake for comment was not immediately returned.
According to 11Alive News in Atlanta, Peake is attempting to rewrite the bill to compensate for the roadblocks, but time may be running out. Peake was adamant about not allowing this piece of legislation go unnoticed for another year.
He introduced the bill initially in response to a constituent’s 4-year old daughter who suffers from seizures.
“There are children that are suffering that, if we waited a year to do a study commission, may not live,” he told 11Alive News.
Bell was critical of state lawmakers trying to pass a bill unsupported by federal law.
He believes state law has to allow for some type of cultivation, even if it’s controlled in a medical setting.
“Until they’re willing to accept that, the bill is dead and there’s not going to be medicine for these children or adults,” said Bell.
Bell, citing the private research and evidence from the 20 states that have legalized medical marijuana, rejects the notion the Federal Drug Administration hasn’t found sufficient evidence to support marijuana in a medicinal setting.
There is Coweta-area support for medical marijuana. The Flannery family from Newnan is seeking relief for their 4-year old son, Reid, who has Dravet Syndrome and suffers from multiple grand mal seizures daily.
They are anxiously waiting for more medical marijuana bills to pass in other states, but are prepared to move to Colorado to help their son.
Vickie Jarosz of nearby Peachtree City knows a child who suffers from seizures, and she longs to see medical support for him.
But Jarosz also suffers from small fiber neuropathy, and no FDA-approved drug has proven effective or viable for long-term use. She says if medical marijuana, more specifically, cannabis oil, were legal and her doctor felt it was right for her, she’d try it.
“I’m not for recreational use. I’m for having it managed by the medical pharmaceutical industry. Anything that’s freely out there is that much closer for teenagers and younger people to abuse,” said Jarosz, who believes the holdup in the bill is more political than medical. “I believe cannabis oil is just like any other pharmaceutical to help people get relief, except without the harmful side effects.
Peake is admittedly advocating for the children, but Bell is critical of the narrow scope of the bill, and like Jarosz, fears children with seizure disorders won’t soon get the help many parents are looking for.