Hold the jokes: Lawmakers go on pot fact-finding trip to Colorado

The father of medical marijuana legislation in Georgia is leading a two-day delegation to Colorado to explore what the state learned from its great pot experiment.

State Rep. Allen Peake said the Monday-to-Tuesday visit aims to get a better understanding of Colorado’s regulatory structure for cultivating medical marijuana. He was quick to add, though, that any notion of legalizing the drug for recreational use in Georgia is off the table.

"The biggest question may be what do we make sure that we don't do," the Macon Republican said of the trip.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, when voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing patients to possess up to 2 ounces of the drug. The state decriminalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, and retail stores began selling it about a year later.

Georgia has so far taken a cautious approach.

After much debate, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation in April that legalizes medical marijuana for those suffering from certain conditions but still makes cultivating the drug off-limits. Peake and other lawmakers are exploring whether to legalize and regulate the in-state cultivation of cannabis oil, which has divided lawmakers.

Peake and state Sen. Butch Miller, both Republicans who are Deal's floor leaders, are leading the delegation. Also on the trip are Georgia Bureau of Investigation head Vernon Keenan; Deal aides Ryan Teague and Jen Talaber; Chuck Spahos of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council; and Paulding County Sheriff Gary Gulledge.

The journey will include trips to a lab where a marijuana plant is processed into medicinal oil, a meeting with the state’s directory of marijuana enforcement and a visit to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

“Colorado is a different animal than Georgia and we don’t intend to go down that path at all,” said Peake. “But it’s good to get input from folks who have been dealing with it for several years, to learn the pitfalls they’ve experienced so that we can learn from them.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.