The final day of the 2018 legislative session brought a flurry of last minute legislative votes, but it also saw state Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, offer harsh criticism of his counterpart in the Senate and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on the House floor.
As the House was considering House Bill 65, which deals with recommendations of additional conditions for treatment with low THC cannabis oil, Clark took to the well of the chamber and condemned Cagle and Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. The bill was amended in the House on Thursday to include a section on making medical cannabis oil treatments available to people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
That section had originally been in House Bill 764, which was sponsored by Clark, a former Army Ranger. The House overwhelmingly passed that bill, 145-17, in late February, but it got stalled in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which is led by Unterman.
Clark accused Unterman and Cagle of “playing games” with cannabis oil bills for five years.
“I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, I’ve seen corruption and those are two of the most corrupt individuals I have met and I’m sorry to say that if that offends some people but that’s the truth,” Clark said. “You don’t play with lives.”
While the tone of Clark’s comments are one reason why the remarks stand out, there are other reasons. He, Unterman and Cagle are all Republicans — and Clark and Unterman represent the same general part of Gwinnett, albeit in different chambers.
Meanwhile, lingering in the background is this year’s gubernatorial race. Clark appeared on a stage with Republican gubernatorial candidate Clay Tippins to rally support for House Bill 764 on March 19. Cagle is also running for governor as a Republican, and Unterman is one of his supporters.
Two days after the rally, Tippins’ campaign claimed an unnamed official in Cagle’s office told Clark that, because he’d appeared on stage with Tippins, another bill he authored that dealt with cardiac arrest training for athletes and coaches would be buried in the Senate.
As for Clark’s remarks on Thursday, he started to tear up as he talked about children who had died because they didn’t have access to cannabis oil treatments.
He later quoted Marvel comics and film character, Captain America, about the need for people to stand up for their principles regardless of what happens as a result.
Unterman responded to Clark’s comments in an email to the Daily Post by pointing to her work during the legislative session.
“While Representative David Clark is quoting his favorite Marvel cartoon characters, it has been my goal to work and pass laws this past session on: health care inequities, elder abuse, child exploitation and child pornography, autism coverage for children, animal abuse, nursing licensure, lowering Georgia taxes and funding quality basic education for Gwinnett County school children,” she said.
“Also for the first time the Philadelphia College of Medicine, based in Gwinnett County, residency program has been expanded under my leadership. It is my honor and dedication to serve the 45th senate district and to have represented Gwinnett County citizens to the upmost of my abilities.”
Cagle’s office declined to comment on the situation with Clark, but the lieutenant governor’s spokesman, Danny Kanso, did send the Daily Post a copy of a March 23 statement from Cagle that outlined his stance on medical cannabis oil.
“Georgians understand that many families depend on medical cannabis oil to treat otherwise debilitating illnesses,” Cagle said in the statement. “We must make certain that government does not stand in the way of what patients and their physicians agree will improve their quality of life.
“I fully support implementing a safe, secure, and reliable in-state system for patients to access low THC medical cannabis oil. This legislation will provide a path to make that a reality. It also erases politics from the process that qualifies conditions for doctors to prescribe this medication.”