Georgia GOP delegate to press for medical marijuana on party platform

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One of the leading advocates in Georgia for medical marijuana is headed to Cleveland this month on a crusade to persuade other delegates to the Republican National Convention to endorse medical marijuana as part of the party's platform.

Dale Jackson, the father of an autistic son who relies on cannabis oil for treatment, plans to arrive at the convention days before it starts July 18 to ramp up talks he’s had over the past month with other Republican activists.

"Our hope is that we'll be successful on getting a statement of support on medical marijuana on the platform," said Jackson, one of Georgia's 76 delegates to the meeting. "That's my focus and my main objective in attending the national convention. And I'm looking to do everything possible to make that happen."

Jackson orchestrated a resolution at the Georgia GOP convention that supported "in-state access" of cannabis oil and would allow patients suffering from a range of additional medical conditions to qualify for the drug. Georgia law allows some patients to possess cannabis oil with a doctor's permission but doesn't permit the in-state cultivation of the plant.

But Jackson faces a tougher task getting the resolution on the national ticket.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he supports legalizing medical marijuana and giving states leeway to set their own policies, and more than two dozen states allow some sort of medicinal pot. But many conservative politicians are still leery of a broader expansion.

Among them is Gov. Nathan Deal, who has said he's not convinced of the need to expand the state's new program and is wary of growing and manufacturing marijuana in Georgia. An effort this year by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, to add more illnesses to the list of disorders that would qualify for the program failed amid GOP opposition.

But there are increasing signs the debate is shifting.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in January found that 62 percent of Georgia voters believe the state should allow the harvesting and distribution of medical marijuana. And the grass-roots activists at last month’s state GOP convention endorsed a resolution to support “in-state access and expanded diagnoses for prescribing” the drug.

Either way, Jackson aims to help Peake and other lawmakers expand Georgia's fledgling medical marijuana program. He is among the parents who openly flout federal law by traveling to Colorado and other states that have legalized marijuana to bring back the drug for their children.

“I’m a law-abiding citizen who is forced to commit a felony every single day, and other families are forced to commit those same felonies just to care for their children,” he told delegates at Georgia’s GOP convention.

“Most of us here would, in principle, disagree with legalizing drugs,” he said. “But this resolution speaks specifically to medicine — medicine that my 8-year-old son needs.”