The Jolt: Medical marijuana backers worry key state senator may undermine new program

FORSYTH - Georgia’s medical marijuana law, authored by State Rep. Allen Peake, is known as Haleigh’s Hope Act and legalizes the possession of cannabis oil for people suffering from a limited number of illnesses. Janea Cox uses the oil to treat her daughter Haleigh, 7, at their home in Forsyth, Ga. The Coxes must still travel to Colorado to obtain the medical marijuana used to treat Haleigh. Feb. 17, 2017. (BITA HONARVAR/SPECIAL)
FORSYTH - Georgia’s medical marijuana law, authored by State Rep. Allen Peake, is known as Haleigh’s Hope Act and legalizes the possession of cannabis oil for people suffering from a limited number of illnesses. Janea Cox uses the oil to treat her daughter Haleigh, 7, at their home in Forsyth, Ga. The Coxes must still travel to Colorado to obtain the medical marijuana used to treat Haleigh. Feb. 17, 2017. (BITA HONARVAR/SPECIAL)

Medical marijuana advocates have apparently defeated a late attempt to lower the current legal THC limit from 5% to 1%, a move they say would effectively gut the program.

State Sen. Bill Cowsert, who is pondering a U.S. House bid, said early Thursday he abandoned the idea because of the overwhelming public response, days after he floated the change at a recent Senate hearing. As a committee chair, he has the juice to tack it onto pending legislation.

“This reduction would be catastrophic to kids in this state that are taking this medicine,” said state Rep. Micah Gravley, the Douglasville Republican who is one of the main champions of the program.

“It doesn’t make sense to me. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. It’s a right and wrong issue,” he added. “And we’ve got people in this state who depend on this medicine.”

We also reached out to Allen Peake, the former GOP legislator known as the godfather of the medical marijuana initiative.

“It would basically destroy an industry that is ready to invest millions of dollars and add significant job growth in our state — as well as eliminate hope for thousands of hurting Georgians,” said Peake.

“And it would take away medicine from Georgia citizens who have been using medical cannabis oil for the last five years to deal with their debilitating illnesses.”

A bipartisan coalition in 2019 passed legislation that creates a new but limited marijuana industry in Georgia. The legislation was celebrated as a milestone for patients who were previously allowed to use the drug — but had to violate state and federal laws to purchase it.

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As lawmakers prepare for final votes on a sweep of new elections restrictions, they may want to chew on some of the findings of a newly-released poll.

The survey by left-leaning TargetSmart, which you can find here, found widespread opposition to some of the most contentious proposals.

Among the findings:

  1. Roughly three-quarters of voters oppose a provision that would make it a crime to “line warm” — distribute food and water to people waiting in queues to vote — including 84% of independents.
  2. Two-thirds of voters are against measures to restrict Sunday voting, while about 60% don’t back restrictions on voting drop-boxes.
  3. About 76% say they don’t support efforts to shift election authority away from local and state officials and toward the Legislature.
  4. And nearly 60% oppose measures that would eliminate vote-by-mail as an option for most Georgia voters, including about one-third of Republicans.

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For a few minutes, it seemed like former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins had chosen the strangest way to roll out his 2022 plans: At a launch party for a conservative radio host.

The conservative site Insider Advantage tweeted that Collins revealed at the party Wednesday that “he will be announcing a run for a GOP seat in 2022.”

Not long after, Republicans started buzzing about the bizarre venue Collins chose to roll out plans to run for Senate or governor, though most also assumed the outlet was inaccurate.

The latter was correct. A few minutes later, Insider Advantage tweeted a “clarification” that Collins said he is only “thinking” of a 2022 run. Which is not news at all.

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Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 38):

  • 8:00 am- House and Senate hearings begin;
  • 10:00 am: The House gavels in;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate convenes.

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A New York Times story Wednesday revealed that many of the specifics of the nationwide GOP efforts to change voting laws are being driven by the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C..

We tracked down the voting recommendations circulated by Heritage, which will look especially familiar to anyone who has been following the GOP proposals at the Georgia Capitol this year — many are identical.

Here are just a few items from the Heritage document that have also been proposed in Georgia:

  • Require voter ID. A voter should be required to validate his or her identity with government-issued photo ID to vote both in-person or by absentee ballot (as states such as Alabama and Kansas require).”
  • Government-issued IDs should be free for those who cannot afford one.”
  • Limit absentee ballots. Absentee ballots should be reserved to those individuals who are too disabled to vote in person or who will be out of town on Election Day and all Early Voting Days.
  • The use of drop boxes should be severely limited. If authorized, states should require that drop boxes be located in secure settings where they are under 24-hour security, under video surveillance, and located in government buildings.”
  • The counting of ballots should continue without pause until all votes have been tabulated.”
  • Private interest groups of whatever partisan affiliation should not be allowed to provide funds to local election authorities to defray the cost of elections.”

Heritage adds this important footnote to its own recommendations: “While there is no accurate information on the extent of these problems, the number of instances in which such issues have occurred and are occurring demonstrates clearly the vulnerabilities in our current patchwork system across the states.”

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Meanwhile, Sidney Powell, the Trump-aligned attorney who ultimately withdrew her lawsuit in Georgia challenging Joe Biden’s general election win, is denying Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation charges with an interesting line of defense: the truth wasn’t known yet. Here is how CNN described the response from Powell’s attorneys:

Powell, who repeatedly pressed unfounded claims of voter fraud on the airwaves and in court, now says that “reasonable” people would not accept her statements as “fact” because the legal process hadn’t yet played out. It was a stunning admission from a woman who served for a time as one of Trump’s top legal lieutenants.

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Metro Atlantans may be scrambling to grab appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine now that Gov. Brian Kemp has announced all Georgians over 16 are eligible.

But a few hours south in Columbus, there is no appointment necessary, reports the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Local officials there announced Wednesday that they can handle anyone who drives up to the Columbus Civic Center, at least through the end of the week.

“Come and get your shot,” said Muscogee County EMA Director Chance Corbett.

Before you yell, “Vaccine hesitancy!” at rural Georgia, we’ve seen first-hand that many rural Georgians — especially seniors — lack a computer, internet connection, and even transportation to get to an appointment.

For the ones who need it most, an appointment is just part of the equation to get vaccinated against the deadly virus.

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A little shade from Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger Wednesday for U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who has announced he’ll challenge Raff in the 2022 GOP primary for Secretary of State.

In an interview with WDUN’s Martha Zoller, Raffensperger talked about playing “whack-a-mole” against the nonsensical rumors and conspiracies following Donald Trump’s loss in Georgia, including from Hice. He led the attempt in the U.S. House to reject Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes in Georgia.

“For example, Congressman Jody Hice talked about Ware County. He said there was a 26% difference. It was actually a 0.26% difference,” Raffensperger told Zoller. “Sometimes people just need to work on their grade-school math.”

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Doug Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Committee, testified virtually before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation during a hearing Wednesday on rebuilding transportation infrastructure.

The topic is a timely one because President Joe Biden’s next big proposal is expected to be a multi-trillion infrastructure package that would aim to create jobs and further stimulate the economy by rebuilding and repairing bridges and roads while also updating transit systems.

In his prepared testimony, Hooker said that his regional planning authority is looking at issues like improving the safety of intersections, reducing vehicle emissions and moving goods efficiently between trucking and rail and would welcome additional federal help.

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff got a zinger-of-a-line off after Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita repeated misleading claims about the general election. But the Georgia freshman also learned the U.S. Senate’s unwritten rules of decorum will only allow him to go so far.

It started when Rokita testified during Wednesday’s hearing on a sweeping elections bill that Trump supporters’ claims of election fraud justified why so many states, including Georgia, are now attempting to pass new voting restrictions. That didn’t sit well with Ossoff.

“I take exception to the comments that you just made, Mr. Rokita, that public concern regarding the integrity of the recent election is born of anything but a deliberate and sustained misinformation campaign led by a vain former president unwilling to accept his own defeat, who, rather than observing the sacred tradition and necessary process of a peaceful transition of power for a losing candidate for the presidency, undertook a scorched-earth effort to undermine public confidence in the integrity of our elections,” Ossoff said.

Rokita asked for a chance to respond, and Ossoff initially said he wouldn’t allow it. Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, stepped in and insisted Ossoff give Rokita 30 seconds.

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