ATLANTA — Medical marijuana advocates expressed outrage Monday over the apparent stalling of a proposal that would expand Georgia’s medical cannabis oil program to include those with post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic, intractable pain.
Members of the Georgia’s Hope advocacy group held a news conference inside the state Capitol and questioned why the bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly last month, hasn’t gotten a Senate committee hearing.
Rep. David Clark, the bill’s sponsor, accused Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a leading Republican gubernatorial candidate and the president of the Senate, of “playing politics” and stifling the proposal by instead calling for another study committee on medical marijuana. He and other lawmakers who support the measure joined the news conference.
“This is what, our third study committee? I think we have enough evidence from the states that have passed this to know that it’s helping people,” Clark, a Buford Republican and Army veteran, told The Associated Press after the news conference.
Those suffering from PTSD who have access to cannabis oil are less likely to turn to highly addictive opioid painkillers, Clark said.
There are currently nearly 4,000 Georgians who are legally allowed to have low-THC cannabis oil, although many have complained that it’s difficult to get access to it because it cannot be cultivated in the state, Rep. Allen Peake said.
In a statement, Cagle said he has supported previous legislation that expanded cannabis oil access. He also said he wants the study committee to examine how to make the medication more accessible to those with prescriptions.
“I’m committed to supporting responsible legislation that ensures Georgians who can benefit from this medication have safe, secure and reliable access,” Cagle said.
Sen. Renee Unterman is the chairwoman of the Health and Human Services committee, where Clark’s proposal has languished. Unterman said the bill is likely dead for this legislative session, which ends March 29. She said she is instead focused on expanding accessibility through the study committee.
Two of Cagle’s Republican rivals in the race, Clay Tippins and Sen. Michael Williams, attended the news conference in support of the bill.
Tippins, a businessman and former Navy SEAL, also used it as an opportunity to blast Cagle.
“(Proposing a study committee) is taking an important issue in an election year, giving it lip service and quietly killing it and acting like something is being done,” Tippins said.
After the news conference, a group of advocates filed into Cagle’s office to confront him about the issue. Cagle’s personal assistant told the group that Cagle was busy the rest of the day, but that they could call to schedule a meeting later on the issue.