Georgia Lawmakers Advance Medical Marijuana Cultivation Bill, More Hearings May Follow

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Photo Credit: BRANT SANDERLIN

A group of Georgia lawmakers voted to push a medical marijuana cultivation bill further through the Legislature, but the Gold Dome has proven a tough climate for growing cannabis.

Macon Republican state Rep. Allen Peake wants the state to issue up to two licenses to grow cannabis and manufacture a liquid from it. State law allows Georgians who have a doctor’s recommendation and a state medical marijuana card to possess that oil for the treatment of symptoms of any of several diagnoses, including late-stage cancer.

“What we’ve attempted to do in House Bill 645 is do what 30 other states have done, which is enact infrastructure for growing of marijuana for medicinal purposes only,” said Peake, so that the roughly 3,400 Georgians who are registered can get it.

However, like all state laws that allow some kind of marijuana possession, Georgia’s medical marijuana law conflicts with the federal ban on cannabis. Georgians generally bring cannabis oil in from states like Colorado that are more permissive. In-state cultivation would make getting the oil easier for patients, though the federal prohibition would remain.

In a unanimous voice vote on Wednesday, the House Medical Cannabis Working Group sent HB 645 to the state House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. Hearings and approval from that committee would be the next step toward a full floor vote.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has endorsed medical marijuana cultivation. But this January, ahead of the session, he recommended a federal strategy.

“I’ve been supportive of the initiatives that have gotten us to this point,” Ralston said, “but at some point we have to sort of confront the realty that as long as federal law is what federal law is, that there’s only so far that we can go. So I’ve encouraged the proponents of medical cannabis oil that maybe it’s time that the emphasis be put on Washington as opposed to the state level and hopefully they will do that.”

Ralston’s comment came on Jan. 4, the same day that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions put the marijuana industry into uncertainty. Sessions revoked an Obama-era guideline that encouraged federal law enforcement agencies not to prioritize going after marijuana that’s regulated by state law.

And Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has not supported in-state cultivation over the several years that Peake has been lobbying for it.

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