In the 2016 election, medical marijuana legalization gained traction across the country. This past Thursday, Georgia lawmakers in both the Senate and House made their own attempt to catch up by filing bills that would improve access to medical marijuana if passed.
Republican Rep. Allen Peake wants to put a constitutional amendment in front of voters on the 2018 ballot to legalize in-state cultivation and distribution in Georgia for medicinal purposes only.
Under a 2015 law, licensed patients can possess up 20 ounces of cannabis oil to treat certain forms of one of eight approved illnesses. This already limited access is further stunted by federal laws that forbid interstate transport of any drug and by Georgia’s own laws that prohibit growing marijuana for even medical purposes.
Essentially, medical marijuana is still illegal in Georgia because patients cannot legally access the medicine they need.
Peake also filed a related bill that would expand the current policy to authorize several more illnesses as those that qualify a patient for medical marijuana, including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, HIV/AIDS, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and Tourette’s syndrome.
Meanwhile, the Senate filed legislation that would expand the list to only include autism — and only on the condition that the allowed THC level in cannabis oil decreases.
Both these bills, which notably fall short of full-fledged medical marijuana legalization, face serious opposition. Just last year, Gov. Deal and a conservative majority in the House shot down similar efforts to expand the current law. Now, Peake’s constitutional amendment efforts would need two-thirds approval in each chamber of the General Assembly before it even reaches the voters.
Though some see these pieces of legislation as progress, what Georgia lawmakers really need to is fulfill their responsibilities as legislators. Our lawmakers should be fighting for patient access to medical marijuana rather than kicking the can and hoping that a constitutional amendment will do their job for them.