Nathan Deal's warning shot on medical marijuana

Add a very important critic to the latest version of state Rep. Allen Peake's medical marijuana bill: Gov. Nathan Deal.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Council and Georgia Sheriffs Association have already objected to what they view as a too-long list of diseases and conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana under his bill. That list includes cancer, AIDS, autism and a range of terminal illnesses.

Deal joined the opponents, suggesting that Peake should narrow the bill to include only seizure-prone children. That's a prospect that the prosecutors group has signaled it wouldn't fight.

Said Deal:

"We want the cannabis oil to be available for the children. But we do not want it misused. And I think law enforcement and district attorneys that have expressed opinions on this believe that if it's not drafted very, very tightly and can't be enforced with certainty, it lends itself to a situation where we cannot control it … I share those concerns. That’s why it is difficult to draft this kind of legislation.”

Peake, a Macon Republican, has said that his legislation allows only cannabis oil with low levels of THC, the chemical that induces highs. And he's urged his colleagues to talk with cancer patients suffering from the ravages of chemotherapy to see for themselves the need for the legislation.

There's room for a compromise here, and both sides have been optimistic one can be reached. And there's reason for Peake, once vilified for accommodating Deal's earlier demands, to push for an expansion.

For now, though, Deal was unequivocal about his concerns with Peake's latest version.

"I think the wider you broaden the net to include more and more illnesses and diseases," he said, "the more likely you are to incur abuse."

Updated at 9:20 a.m.: State Rep. Allen Peake just sent over the following comments via email in response to the governor:

"I'm very confident that the rigorous legislative process will provide a final version of HB 1 that will bring relief from pain and suffering for many Georgia citizens that are hurting, and meets the needed criteria to obtain the signature of Governor Deal.

I wholeheartedly share the Governor's concerns that we not pass a medical cannabis oil bill that could lead to abuse of the medicine, and we will be working with our law enforcement officials to insert safeguards in the legislation that protect against potential abuse."

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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.