Gravley: Georgia needs in-state cultivation of medical cannabis

Micah Gravley

ANNA WATKINS

Efforts to establish the cultivation of medical cannabis within the state by some lawmakers encountered another bump in the road lately as this year’s General Assembly gets underway. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is running for governor this year, expressed opposition to the cultivation of cannabis in the state during a recent visit to Douglasville.

Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, helped to pass HB1 in 2015, which allowed for the treatment of certain conditions with cannabis oil, and he feels that in-state cultivation can be regulated efficiently and is needed to compliment the ability to treat conditions with cannabis.

But state lawmakers were still not ready to make that next step for cultivation during the 2017 session, though the list of conditions lawful for treatment use has since been expanded from the original bill passed in 2015.

And HR36 introduced in last year’s session was a resolution to amend the state constitution to provide for the distribution of medical cannabis oil through voter referendum.

Passing a cultivation law is the missing piece in terms of cannabis legislation. But Georgia is not unique in this regard. Currently, several conditions can be treated with cannabis, but possession laws at the federal level can still apply, making it illegal to travel across state lines with the medicine.

And lately, there have been more soundings from the federal level as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was pushing back on notions of leniency with regard to cannabis laws. Possibly adding to that may be opposition coming from the Trump Administration on the issue.

But Gravley hopes something positive can be accomplished during this year’s General Assembly with regard to HB645, a bill in the pipeline that would provide for in-state cultivation of cannabis oil.

Gravley is joined by other lawmakers including Allen Peake, Tom McCall, Alan Powell, Terry England, Valencia Stovall, among sponsors, but adds that it’s not about legalizing the drug in any other way.

“I’ve never been an advocate for recreational use of any drug,” Gravley said. “I’ve been an advocate for medical cannabis oil. My thought is that Sessions’ comments may [impact] states that have medical only [use] and I don’t want the patients who have gone through the legal process of registering with the state to possess legal cannabis oil for their diagnosis to be in fear ... and that’s why we want cultivation here.”

But to obtain it out-of-state and bring in in is still in violation of the federal law, Gravley pointed out, and added that there’s another conflict inherent in the existing regulations.

“Here’s the contradiction, the federal government has the drug scheduled as “Schedule One Narcotic” which means ‘highly addictive and of no medicinal value’ but the same federal government owns the patent on cannabis oil.”

Gravley said that if this is a matter of holding up the law as Sessions implies, then the federal government also needs to relinquish its patent on cannabis oil.

Gravley also said that, for him, this is not about picking the laws you favor to uphold, but that on this issue, there’s a clear contradiction with the federal government.

Gravley said there’s overwhelming statewide support for medical use of cannabis and that the posture now is in terms of the Jeffersonian notion that “...whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, is right for the people to alter or abolish it.”

Gravley doesn’t want to see progress toward medical use of the drug stifled by recent stirrings in the news.

“My frustration is that you may affect the medical legislation that we’ve proposed, while at the same time holding the patent on cannabis oil, which is what these people need,” Gravley said.

Once HB1 was signed into law, Georgia become one of the 37 states plus Washington D.C. with some sort of medical marijuana law.

Eight qualifying conditions under HB 1 included cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, seizure disorders, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial disease, and sickle cell disease and more have been added since then.

The bill also created the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis charged with making a recommendation for the potential regulatory infrastructure for creation of an in-state growth/distribution model of medical cannabis.

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