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Cannabis advocates in Georgia are outraged that the state Senate has indefinitely stalled a bill to add PTSD to the state’s list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, even though the legislation has received strong support from the state House of Representatives as well as Gov. Nathan Deal.
Georgia passed a limited medical marijuana law in 2015, allowing individuals suffering from 12 qualifying conditions to possess and use small quantities of cannabis oil. Back in February, the Georgia House approved HB 764, which would also allow those suffering from PTSD or long-term, intractable pain to register for the state's medical cannabis program. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority of 145-17, and Gov. Nathan Deal has also said that he supports the legislation.
But before Gov. Deal can sign the bill into law, it must pass through the state Senate, where the bill is now stalled in the Health and Human Services Committee. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a leading gubernatorial candidate as well as president of the Senate, has argued that the bill should be delayed until the committee can launch another study on medical cannabis. In a statement, Cagle said that he has previously supported medical cannabis legislation, and that he now wants the committee to investigate how to make the medication more accessible to patients.
State Rep. David Clark, who sponsored the bill, has accused Cagle of “playing politics” and deliberately stalling the bill. "This is what, our third study committee?” Clark said to the Associated Press. “I think we have enough evidence from the states that have passed this to know that it's helping people." State Sen. Renee Unterman, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, told AP that the bill is not likely to make it out of the committee before the current legislative session ends on March 29th.
This week, advocacy group Georgia's Hope, which was founded in 2013 to help push for medical marijuana in the Peach State, held a press conference to draw attention to the bill. Sebastien Cotte, co-founder of the organization, told reporters that the bill was in “grave danger of dying.” Cotte said that “Casey Cagle is refusing to give it a hearing without giving us any reasons. He actually refuses to talk to us,” NBC affiliate 11 Alive reports. “There are no valid reasons we can think of for Casey Cagle not to want to help thousands of suffering Georgians.”
Clay Tippins and state Sen. Michael Williams, two Republicans who are competing with Cagle for a shot at becoming governor this year, also showed up to the press conference to criticize the Lt. Governor's role in delaying the passage of the bill. Tippins said that Cagle's proposal to launch another study committee amounts to “taking an important issue in an election year, giving it lip service and quietly killing it and acting like something is being done," AP reports.