Georgia law allows people suffering from more than a dozen illnesses to register with the state and possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil, and more than 3,500 patients are now on the registry.
But because the state doesn’t allow in-state cultivation, families who obtain medical marijuana from other states risk defying federal law for transporting the drug across state lines.
State Rep. Allen Peake, who wrote the state's medical marijuana law, has lobbied the governor and legislators to allow a limited form of cultivation and manufacturing. He said Monday he was "disappointed but not surprised" by Deal's position.
“I’m more disappointed for the 3,500 hurting Georgians who have registered with the state to legally possess the product but still have no legal way to get it,” said Peake, a Macon Republican.
“I guess it will be an issue that the next governor will have to decide, and I fully expect it to be a huge issue in the upcoming election.”
Two of the five leading Republican candidates for governor – businessman Clay Tippins and state Sen. Michael Williams – have said they support in-state cultivation. The two Democratic candidates, former state legislators Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, also are open to the idea.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll of Georgia voters published in January showed 77 percent were comfortable with in-state cultivation. Just over half of those surveyed supported legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Deal said until he leaves office in January, state legislators should instead be pushing Congress to “give the states more flexibility” on medical marijuana.
“There’s a lot of confusion and overlay of federal rules and laws,” he said, “and that needs to be the starting point of doing something about it.”