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Georgia House steps up cannabis bill scrutiny

Article by The Telegraph Story by

State Rep. Allen Peake has presented his medical cannabis cultivation bill to a key House panel, trying to push it through the state Legislature before a quickly approaching deadline.

His challenge is convincing lawmakers to approve a bill that critics say will cause unintended problems. The bill also defies the federal cannabis ban.

Peake’s House Bill 722 would allow the state to license up to six medical cannabis cultivators. Each license holder could grow the plant and manufacture liquid or pill treatments for Georgians who have any of 17 diagnoses.

Peake, R-Macon, said the point of his bill is to get the compounds into the hands of seriously ill Georgians.

But after two hours of being examined by a panel packed with lawyers, Peake said there are parts of his bill that he will need to work on in the coming days.

Members of the committee who were hearing the bill poked holes in its language. Among other things, they suggested that the diagnosis of “intractable pain” might be open to abuse and that patients might cause legal problems for employers who want to comply with the state’s drug-free workplace program.

Peake said he looks forward to clarifying the language and, he hopes, passing a bill.

“I’m optimistic because I think the committee members and my colleagues get the need” for the bill, said Peake.

But bill critics also got their first chance to testify this year.

Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said the bill is hard to swallow. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association opposes cultivation in the state.

“We already have a number of guidelines that are used for prescription drugs and controlling that. However we see that doctors and patients abuse that daily, and we deal with it every day on the street. … To only add something else to that issue is a grave concern,” Sisk said.

The next hearing on the bill is tentatively scheduled for Friday before the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. More critics may testify.

The bill needs to pass the House by the time the legislative session is three-quarters over on Feb. 29 or face almost certain failure for this year.

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