On Wednesday the Georgia Senate Health Committee approved a hotly debated medical marijuana bill with changes that have the potential to land desperate parents of sick children in prison.
House Bill 885, also known as Haleigh’s Hope Act, is already one of the most restrictive medical marijuana bills ever written. If passed it is supposed to allow teaching hospitals in Georgia to establish medical marijuana study programs and dispense cannabis extracts (no herb) to cancer, glaucoma and seizure patients. The bill’s sponsor, state representative Allen Peake (R-Macon), had envisioned a program run by university hospitals dispensing high-CBD tinctures or pills made from marijuana that the universities would grow themselves. Despite vocal input from Georgia’s marijuana legalization organizations from the very beginning, Rep. Peake never seriously considered the fact that only in some strange, alternate universe would a University risk having all of their federal funding revoked for violating federal law by growing acres of plants that the federal government considers to be among the most dangerous substances on the planet.
A Real Predicament
When none of Georgia’s medical colleges stepped forward to place their heads on the chopping block Rep. Peake tried to negotiate a privately-run nonprofit dispensary system, but since nobody under the Gold Dome actually wants this medical marijuana bill to provide anyone access to medical marijuana he wasn’t taken seriously. The most recent version of the bill would encourage people to travel out of state (most likely to Colorado) and bring medical marijuana back with them, despite the fact that doing so violates not just federal law but the laws of every state line crossed with cannabis, no matter what form it exists in.
The truth is, Georgia politicians have felt comfortable piling on to HB 885 because they know it has such a low chance of actually making marijuana available to Georgia citizens that the risk for political blowback is negligible. Most marijuana activists in Georgia have acknowledged the extremely limited scope of the bill as written, but have supported it anyway because they have hoped that it would be a stepping stone to a more reasonable medical marijuana law in the future. What we have instead is a medical marijuana bill that doesn’t really provide anyone access to marijuana, but says if you are able to smuggle your child’s medication to Georgia without getting caught then you get to keep it.
The biggest loser with Haleigh’s Hope Act: Haliegh
Before making it out of the Senate Health Committee HB885 was tied to a second bill, an autism insurance bill introduced by Sen. Renee Unterman (R- Gwinnett). Sen. Unterman had previously threatened to hold the medical marijuana bill hostage in order to get her legislation passed and that’s just what she’s done by tying it to her bill, a bill that the House had previously refused to give any attention to.
Meanwhile, as politicians play their political games Janea Cox says she is forced to flee the state for her daughter’s life. Haleigh Cox, the 4-year-old girl HB885 is named after, is moving to Colorado today in order to obtain the medication she so desperately needs. “Haleigh doesn’t have much longer,” Cox said. “My child’s dying from seizure medications, so we have to get this medicine. Haleigh has no other options at this point.”
When asked about how she felt about smuggling cannabis across state lines Cox said “The parents can make the decision whether they want to bring it over state lines or not. I think that’s the best way to do it because we’re all on our last resort, and we need the option to be able to try it. And if that’s the way it needs to be, that’s what we’re going to do.”