Pubdate: Thu, 04 Dec 2014
Source: Rome News-Tribune (GA)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Author: Kathleen Foody, Associated Press
Page: 5A


Atlanta (AP) - Georgia lawmakers revisited a divisive argument over 
legalizing medical marijuana on Wednesday, as parents pleaded for 
something to help children with seizure disorders and representatives 
of law enforcement and conservative groups warned of unintended consequences.

Members of a study committee met for the final time on Wednesday in 
Atlanta, with some lining up behind different proposals on the issue 
that will arise again in the 2015 legislative session that begins in January.

Republican Rep. Allen Peake, who spearheaded last session's failed 
effort to pass a bill aimed at helping children with seizure 
disorders, pre-filed a bill last month to allow limited use of 
medical cannabis in Georgia. Peake said he expects to have a draft 
bill by Christmas, or at the latest by the Jan. 12 start to the session.

He has said the bill will allow a limited number of businesses to get 
a state license to grow and process marijuana to provide cannabis oil 
to people with certain medical conditions under tight regulations. 
Peake has said he also wants to limit the amount of the 
tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, compound that makes users feel a high.

"We must act now," Peake told committee members, after listing the 
names of children whose parents have lobbied for a medical marijuana law.

Democratic state Sen. Curt Thompson separately filed a bill allowing 
broader use of medical marijuana, including licensing some patients 
to grow plants, and a resolution to amend the state Constitution and 
legalize the drug in limited amounts for people older than 21. 
Thompson told committee members that Georgia lawmakers should 
consider people with serious illnesses who need treatment.

"I hope we take what we've learned and put that to use," he said.

Opposition has come from a variety of circles during the hearings, 
including the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia. Executive 
Director Chuck Spahos said no one wants to prosecute a family looking 
to help their sick child, but law enforcement officials have concerns 
about federal law that classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.

"We don't want to stand in the way of oil being available for 
treatment, but we can't disregard federal law," he said.

After last session's bill failed over unrelated legislation, Gov. 
Nathan Deal announced a clinical trial partnership between Georgia 
Regents University and a pharmaceutical company. University officials 
have said they have some federal approvals and hope to begin 
accepting patients soon.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom