Although there was some momentum in the state legislature this session to pass a marijuana bill that would allow a statewide cultivation and distribution system to be created for patients given permission to use cannabis oil, it seems that many Georgia lawmakers are now nervous about tendering their support for the measure because state law enforcement officials have convinced them that this move will lead to an uprising in drug addiction and crime.
Testifying during a recent committee hearing on behalf of the Georgia Sheriffs Association, Catoosa County Sheriff Gary Sisk said that people would employ the same underhanded tactics they use now to con physicians into feeding them painkillers to get their hands on medical marijuana if the state decides to engage in cultivation. The veteran officer suggested that this law would create a stoned legion of drug addicts that could pose a threat to communities all over the state.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for over 25 years,” Sisk told the committee. “I haven’t talked to or seen or met a drug addict that at some point in time hasn’t stated that they started their usage with marijuana. It’s only continued to develop further.”
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson, who is also the president the Georgia Sheriffs Association, recently told reporters that he doesn’t believe the state is ready to start growing pot. He believes the measure intended to provide epilepsy patients with the right to use cannabis oil without legal repercussion has become part of the “baby steps toward recreational marijuana in Georgia.”
However, Representative Allen Peake’s latest proposal—House Bill 722—is not exactly the golden path to ending prohibition in the Empire of the South. While the law would allow cannabis to be grown and distributed across the state, pot products could only be sold by up to six manufacturers. In addition, a strict seed to sale tracking system would be put into place for law enforcement to monitor, no home cultivation would be permitted and only licensed pharmacists could distribute the medicine to the less than 600 patients currently registered to participate.
Overall, the program would still be on a relatively tight leash, but Georgia sheriffs are certain it is destined to become a gateway to Big Marijuana.
“You’re talking about big money coming into the state,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said. “It won’t stop [with medical marijuana].”
Needless to say, Peake has been battling opposing forces throughout a series of committee hearings, as of late, trying his best to convince law enforcement and state prosecutors that his mission is not one of trickery, but an effort to prevent Georgia patients from breaking federal law in order to gain access to cannabis oil.
“We’re not trying to pull one over on anybody,” Peake replied during last week’s hearing. “All we want is medicine for those who truly do have a debilitating illness and allow them to have access to a safe and legal product here in Georgia.”
Unfortunately, the damage may already be done. Reports indicate that members of the House, while initially in support of the measure, have grown leery about casting a favorable vote. Even Governor Nathan Deal remains on the fence about expanding the current program due to the lobbying efforts of the Georgia Sheriffs Association.
Representative Peake argues that law enforcement’s concerns over his bill are unfounded.
"If someone wants marijuana to get high, they're going to go get it," he said. "Someone's not going to go through the difficult process of registering with the state, going to see their physician, having a consultation with a pharmacist, paying more than they would on the street, to get medicine."
In order for Peake’s bill to have a fighting chance at becoming law in 2016, it must be approved by the full House by February 29.
(Photo Courtesy of Westword.com)