For supporters of sensible marijuana policies, the choice for governor couldn’t be more clear.
Georgia’s general election is coming up on Tuesday, November 6, and there is national attention on Georgia’s choices for governor. Before you vote, we want to let you know about the stark differences between the candidates’ stances on marijuana policy reform.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) opposes in-state cultivation of medical marijuana, even though thousands of medical cannabis patients in Georgia lack reasonable access to the low-THC oils they are allowed to possess. Kemp would perpetuate the harmful contradiction in the state program, treating seriously ill patients like second class citizens. Turning to adult-use, his website says he “is not in the camp of being pro-recreational marijuana.” MPP gives Brian Kemp an F for failing the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Stacey Abrams, former House minority leader, has been clear in her support improving state cannabis laws. Not only does she support in-state cultivation and oversight in a well-regulated program, she also supports removing criminal penalties for possession as Atlanta did last year, and will even consider ending marijuana prohibition once the other reforms are made. In stark contrast to her opponent, MPP rates Stacey Abrams with an A for the support she offers for sensible cannabis policy.
You can find a summary of Georgia’s current low-THC law, Haleigh’s Hope Act, here.
For more information on early voting and Election Day voting, including where you can cast your ballot and when voting locations will be open, check out the state’s elections website here.
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Georgians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those with intractable pain may begin signing up for the state’s low-THC oil program. A bill passed earlier this year, House Bill 65, went into effect on July 1, adding these two serious conditions.
Intractable pain is devastating and is often defined as constant and excruciating. Those who experience it sometimes turn to reliance on opioid medications. While low-THC oil may not replace opioids for these patients, many have found medical cannabis products can allow them to use fewer opioids by reducing pain levels, helping patients maintain appetite and serving as a sleep aid. It can be an important new tool in a treatment program.
Many who suffer from PTSD can also find relief through use of medical cannabis products. This debilitating disease can affect all aspects of a person’s life, and like intractable pain, pharmaceutical drugs used to treat the condition can themselves cause harm. Veterans and those experiencing PTSD deserve a safer alternative.
The state’s program has grown in recent years, but Georgia’s limited, low-THC approach remains flawed. While patients have some protections, there is no regulatory system behind production or sale, leaving access to cannabis in the shadows. We hope Georgia can improve its program when lawmakers reconvene in 2019.
While short of a complete solution, these changes are welcome.
Yesterday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a bill that will significantly expand the number of patients who qualify for the state's low-THC medical cannabis oils. Beginning on July 1, HB 65 will allow patients with intractable pain and adults with PTSD to qualify for the program, which allows registered patients to possess cannabis oils with no more than 5% THC content.
Georgia’s most passionate legislative champion of medical cannabis — Rep. Allen Peake (R) — sponsored both HB 65 and another bill — HB 645 — which would have allowed in-state production of cannabis oils. Currently, registered patients have nowhere to legally purchase cannabis oils in Georgia. Unfortunately, HB 645 didn’t receive a floor vote. However, HB 65 includes a study commission on in-state access to cannabis. Seriously ill patients who are already granted the ability to possess cannabis products clearly need a way to obtain them without sidestepping the law.
This is Rep. Peake’s last year in the legislature; he announced in February that he will not run for re-election. His leadership will be missed in the capital!
Yesterday, Georgia lawmakers began their work in 2018, and they are again considering improvements to the state’s medical marijuana program. Two bills, HB 645 and HR 36, have been proposed to establish much-needed medical cannabis access for patients.
If you are a Georgia resident, please send a message to your state lawmakers in support of a workable system that includes cultivation, processing, and sales within Georgia for the state’s seriously ill patients.
Georgia has a very limited medical marijuana law, but prohibits in-state cultivation, processing, and regulated sales of medical cannabis. Georgia’s law encourages patients to obtain medicine through illicit means. It leaves patients with no option but to travel out of state for access to their medicine and bring it back, which is a violation of both federal law and of state law in places where medical cannabis is available. The law puts Georgians in harm’s way.
Rep. Allen Peake, long a champion for compassionate medical marijuana laws, is working on two possible solutions. First, HB 645 would allow two cannabis business licensees to grow, process, and sell medical cannabis oil. Meanwhile, HR 36 would allow lawmakers to place the issues of business regulations before voters in November.
In Georgia this week, he Atlanta City Council took a historic step when it voted unanimously to stop jailing people for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana! Following the vote, Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed tweeted that he will sign the ordinance into law.
Once the measure is in effect, a person caught with one ounce or less of marijuana in the city would face a maximum fine of just $75 and no jail time under city law. Unfortunately, state law would not change, so it is possible that local law enforcement could still arrest under the harsher state penalties. This is also the case on college and university campuses, which may or may not change policy.
In other words, advocates should remain vigilant to ensure the spirit of the law is respected.
For the measure’s sponsor, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall, the change is about fairness in Atlanta’s criminal justice system. Shockingly, 92 percent of those arrested for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in the city of Atlanta are African-American, even though they make up just over half the resident population in the city. This change to the law is a welcome one.
You can read the text of the measure adopted by the city council here.
If you are a Georgia resident, please let your state lawmakers know that you want them to follow Atlanta’s lead and stop arresting marijuana consumers.
Both the Georgia House and Senate this year presented bills that would make changes to the state’s low-THC medical marijuana law. The better of the two, House Bill 65, just passed the House by a huge margin of 156-6 in support. The bill is now on its way to the Senate.
House Bill 65 would increase the list of qualifying medical conditions, adding HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, peripheral neuropathy, and others, and it would offer basic protections for those patients visiting from out-of-state. Unfortunately for many veterans and others, PTSD was removed from the list while in committee earlier this week.
The Senate’s bill, SB 16, has already passed the Senate. Unfortunately, while it would add autism as a qualifying medical condition, it would lower the total amount of THC allowable in medical marijuana products from 5% to 3%, harming the program for all who participate.
The Georgia government enacted an ineffective law last year that was intended to provide relief to patients with epilepsy, but which didn't provide for a source of medical marijuana within the state.
Since then, state Rep. Allen Peake (R) publicly admitted to illegally transporting medical marijuana from Colorado to Georgia to help some parents with epileptic children, and he's now pushing hard to fix the ineffective law by legalizing dispensaries for patients to purchase medical marijuana.
If you are a Georgia resident, please tell your lawmakers to support a workable medical marijuana bill.
Rep. Allen Peake, who championed Haleigh's Hope Act in 2015, is prefiling HB 722, which would greatly improve on last year’s legislation. Most importantly, the bill would allow regulated cultivation, processing, testing, and dispensing of medical cannabis in Georgia — protecting families and seriously ill patients who otherwise have to risk breaking laws to get access.
Currently, the more than 400 patients in Georgia are required to travel out of state to obtain much-needed medicine. Traveling out of state is a huge risk, since law enforcement officials in other states treat them like criminals. In addition to this critical change, HB 722 would also remove the current cap on THC. Since the vast majority of medical marijuana patients in the U.S. count on THC for medical benefit, the bill would provide meaningful access for a broad range of qualified patients in Georgia.
Rep. Peake has once again stepped forward on behalf of patients, and he deserves our appreciation and support.
If you are a Georgia resident, please contact your legislator today and make sure they know you want their support for HB 722.
A poll released Monday shows that the vast majority of likely Georgia voters support expanding the extremely limited medical marijuana law.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
The poll conducted on behalf of the newly formed Georgians for Freedom in Healthcare is part of that effort to show Georgians are comfortable with expanding the program — even if the governor isn’t.
The poll, conducted Nov. 29-30 by Atlanta-based Opinion Savvy, found 84.5 percent of likely 2016 Georgia primary voters somewhat to strongly supported allowing production and distribution of cannabis oil in Georgia.
Another 72.7 percent of respondents said they are somewhat to very confident law enforcement agencies could effectively police the law’s expansion — something law enforcement officials in Georgia have said they are still skeptical about.
Among other findings, 81.8 percent of respondents said they support expanding the list of illnesses now included in the program for the oil’s use. Another 61.5 percent said they somewhat to strongly support allowing the smoking of medical marijuana as a form of treatment. And 49.4 percent said they would at least somewhat support recreational use of marijuana in Georgia, although state lawmakers have said they have no appetite for allowing recreational use here.
Under the current law, there is no in-state production of medical marijuana, and what few patients are able to qualify for the program must risk arrest by obtaining their medicine in other states. Hopefully, the Governor and legislature will listen to the will of the people and not stand in the way of improving the law!
Georgia has begun releasing marijuana and other drug offenders who were sentenced under the state’s harsh sentencing laws. The new law allows those facing life sentences for illicit sales to be considered for parole. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to those facing sentences just for possession.
Following adoption of a misguided “get tough on crime” campaign in the 90’s, many Georgians found themselves in horrifically long prison terms for nonviolent offenses, including the sale of marijuana. Journalists with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that black people were an astonishing 26 times more likely to receive life sentences than were whites under these laws.
For many, the war on marijuana seems to be winding down. But for those who languish in prison under long sentences, the war could mean a life sentence.
The first person to benefit from the new law was Darion Barker, sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for sale of marijuana and other drugs. Officials released him in July after serving 20 years.
But while the new law is a major step forward, there is more to do. Others just like Darion remain behind bars, many for lesser charges, including marijuana possession. If you are a Georgia resident, please ask your representative and senator to include those subject to long prison sentences for possession to be eligible for parole like Darion.