Medical marijuana bill falls short

The effort to legalize medical marijuana in Georgia is dead for the year.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who championed the idea after lawmakers had already convened for the year and delivered it to the brink of final passage, acknowledged the end late Thursday, the legislative session's final day.

His bill fell victim to time and the typical political webs that ensnare well-meaning legislation every year. House Bill 885 was designed to allow Georgia families use of cannabis oil to treat certain seizure disorders in both children and adults, afflictions that can cause hundreds of seizures a day and often lead to death. The oil is harvested from the marijuana plant but does not create the high that recreational use of marijuana produces.

Peake looked for any opportunity to get the bill passed. His last-ditch effort was to attach it to Senate Bill 291, which created a new agency for adult and aging services.

“I bring before you the last time a shot at giving hope to families in Georgia,” he said, asking the House one last time to vote for his new passion project.

“We give parents the choice, the personal choice and option to go seek, legally, cannabidiol oil that can have life-changing impact on their children.”

The House agreed, but Peake ran out of time to get approval in the Senate.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, slammed senators for their inaction.

“They have had that opportunity,” Ralston said. “I understand they would rather make speeches than take care of Georgia’s children.”

The Senate had earlier approved Peake’s original bill, HB 885, but only after attaching legislation that would require insurance companies to cover autism treatment in young patients. That mandate has been a non-starter in the House.

“I’m going to go home to my comfortable life, my comfortable family, my healthy children,” Peake said. “These families are going to wake up to a child having 100 seizures a day, so it’s frustrating we couldn’t come to a resolution.”