Macon lawmaker brings back medical marijuana bill


  • State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon
  • Georgia House of Representatives

Today marks the first day that state lawmakers can introduce new proposals for the 2015 legislative session. And, as many political observers expected, the push to legalize a specific form of medical marijuana will pick up once again next year at the Gold Dome.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, today pre-filed a piece of legislation that would allow people to legally access cannabidiol oil, a liquid medicine derived from marijuana, that would offer relief to individuals suffering from seizures. The proposed “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” named after a five-year-old girl from metro Macon who has suffered from seizures, would allow a small number of license holders to grow, produce, and distribute the marijuana-based medicine in either a liquid or pill form.

The pre-filed bill that’s currently in the hopper is not the final version. According to Peake, the full bill will eventually outline the medical conditions that are eligible for cannabidiol oil prescriptions. It will also include legal protections for people either worried about violating federal law or failing a drug test.

State lawmakers nearly passed Peake’s medical marijuana measure earlier this year. But the bill stalled during the 2014 legislative session’s final hours due to a last-minute attempt by state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, to attach an unpopular measure to require insurance companies to expand coverage for young people suffering from autism.

Without access to medical marijuana, some parents of children living with seizures have been forced to relocate their families to Colorado in order to legally obtain cannabidiol oil. Peake said in a statement that he knows of at least 15 families that have left Georgia for other states. He also says three children have died since state lawmakers failed to pass his measure in 2014.

“We must finish the job that we started last year, for the sake of Georgia medical refugees who have had to move to another state to obtain cannabis oil for their children,” Peake said in a Facebook post yesterday. “Since the bill failed last year, three kids have died from seizure related illnesses - Three kids who roamed the halls of the state capitol with their parents last year pushing for this bill.”

Since the legislative session ended, Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order to help get patients access to cannabidiol oil. Georgia Regents University, the state’s medical college, has partnered with G.W. Pharmaceuticals, a biopharmaceutical company that’s working on federal clinical trials for its liquid medical marijuana treatment. State lawmakers have also held multiple meetings throughout the state to further study medical marijuana legalization. Deal has said that he hopes to for clinical trials to be approved sometime in early 2015.

Marijuana Policy Project Legislative Analyst Rachelle Yeung commends state lawmakers for prioritizing medical marijuana reforms. But they could improve the legislation, she says, by allowing patients with serious diseases such as multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder to receive medical treatment with higher ratios of THC.

“If passed, this law will provide relief to countless patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions, including children with severe seizure disorders,” Yeung says. “We hope that the legislature will extend the same compassion to other seriously ill patients. Georgia’s most vulnerable patients deserve the same treatment options as those in 23 other states and D.C.”