Georgia Republicans send Governor Nathan Deal a message about Cannabis
During the 2015-2016 Legislative session, Governor Deal and his Floor Leaders blocked every attempt to give Georgia Cannabis Patients in-state access to Cannabis products.
Representative Allen Peake’s HB722, which would have allowed for expanded “authorized” conditions and in-state cultivation/processing of CBD Oil, seemed doomed before it was introduced. Governor Deal very publicly made it plain that he would veto ANY legislation crossing his desk that authorized in-state cultivation. Despite this warning, the majority of the House of Representatives signed to sponsor the Bill.
In hearings before the House Non-Civil Judiciary Committee, Representative Peake introduced his Bill. There was heartbreaking testimony from parents and grandparents, explaining how CBD/THC Oil helped provide relief for their loved ones.
There was also testimony from the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, expressing fear that in-state cultivation of Cannabis for medicine would lead to insurmountable problems. They expressed fear of stepping on a “slippery slope” that could lead to the legalization of Recreational Marijuana. The Sheriff’s Association expressed fear that Sheriffs would not be able to control production facilities. All the testimony was, quite frankly, fear-based and even prompted Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black to state “I don’t support Industrial Hemp”, in a totally off-topic comment directed to the sponsor of HB704, a Bill that would provide for Industrial Hemp Cultivation in Georgia.
Despite all the doom and gloom testimony, HB722 passed the House (with some modifications) and moved on to the Senate, where it completely stalled, thanks in large part to Sen. Renee Untermann.
Then in a savvy move, Representative Peake used an old trick and Amended SB145, which had passed the Senate during the 2014-2015 session but had not been to the House, to contain the language of HB722. This measure also passed the House, but was hamstrung by Governor Deal’s floor leaders and never got a vote on Sine Die, the last day of the session.
During all this Dale Jackson, the father of Colin who suffers from Autism, led a group of parents, patients, and supporters and garnered more than 12,000 signatures in a petition asking Governor Deal to soften his stance on in-state cultivation. They delivered it to the Governor’s Office by hand, asking for a personal meeting, but the Governor would not even step out of his inner sanctum to greet them. His rebuff of these patients was despicable in my eyes and it fanned the flames of their collective forge.
Despite the impassioned testimony of parents and patients like Dale Jackson, Sebastian Cotte, Jennifer Conforti, Adra and Brian Underwood, and others, Georgia’s Hope for in-state access to Cannabis Oil was crushed, just as Governor Deal’s threat of veto foreshadowed.
I’m sure Governor Deal was pleased with all this, but it appears he failed to take the staunch resolution of these parents and others into account. He apparently also misread the will of his own Party.
Dale Jackson is the 3rdDistrict GOP chair and has a passionate, persuasive voice born of love for his son, disappointment, desperation and now defiance.
Stirred on by District Chairman Jackson and Rick Davies, Chair of the Cherokee County Republican Party, the GAGOP adopted a resolution in support of in-state access to Cannabis Oil on 6/4/2016. In part, it reads,
“BE IT RESOLVED that the delegates of the 2016 GAGOP Convention strongly suggest that our Republican-led legislative bodies act to study meaningful Medical Cannabis legislation, including in-state access and additional longitudinal medical studies, that grants all patients suffering from the conditions listed in HB1 (2015) & HB722/SB145 (2016) who, according to their physician, would benefit from the consumption of Medical Cannabis oil access to said oil.”
The message to Governor Deal seems to be, “Let’s get on with it”.
Dale Jackson graciously provided me the following statement:
“I was excited to see that for once the state party was able to make an official statement of support for the families needing access to cannabis oil by passing our resolution. Even after a very small faction tried to delay the final counted vote, the resolution was passed with a 70% majority! I’m proud that the grassroots conservatives side with the families of Georgia and agree that federal nor state governments should dictate how a parent cares for their child. At the end of the day, I see this as a clear message to Gov Deal and all of the leadership at the gold dome, and it is clear that the members of the GAGOP want to see a real solution the next legislative session!”.
Representative Peake’s hashtag , #TimeToGetItDone, in a Tweet is spot on.
He also provided a statement,
“When others ask why the medical cannabis oil issue is so important, and why it is worth the risk to be involved, the answer is simple – access to medical cannabis oil is changing lives, and making life better for hundreds and thousands of individuals all over the country. I fully intend to reintroduce legislation in the 2017 Georgia General Assembly that will allow a regulatory structure for cultivation, processing and distribution of safe, lab-tested medical cannabis oil in our state. I have no idea whether it will gain support from my colleagues or Governor Deal, but after watching lives changed over the last 3 years, the evidence is clear to me. And Georgia citizens are worth fighting for……”.
Author’s Note: If you would care to view some of the testimony referenced in this article you can find videos on Georgia C.A.R.E. Project’s YouTube channel. Many thanks to James Bell, Director of Georgia C.A.R.E. for taking his time to video these testimonies.