The Federal Government has doubled down on its decision not to allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Despite twenty-five states and the District of Columbia passing laws that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied requests to move marijuana from a “Schedule I” controlled substance to a “Schedule II” controlled substance. In an article from The Washington Post, the DEA’s decision is highlighted with Church Rosenberg, the acting administrator of the DEA, stating, “Right now, the science doesn’t support it…” and that “The FDA knows this better than anyone on the Planet…” Rosenberg did say that the DEA will be increasing the number of places allowed to grow and conduct research on marijuana in terms of its value as a medicine. Critics, however, say that the red tape of registration and applications requests make it too difficult to study a schedule I drug.
What does this have to do with Georgia, though? Well, anyone who has paid attention to the last few legislative sessions would know that medical marijuana has been a hot topic. State Representative Allen Peake (R) has been the leader of the fight in the state legislature to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Georgia. He had this to say about the DEA’s decision:
“This decision is just insane. To continue to state that there is no evidence that medical cannabis has therapeutic value is an insult and slap in the face to thousands of citizens and families that have seen the drastic positive benefits. This clearly now becomes a full on ‘states rights’ issue, and we as Georgia leaders must be willing to address the proper way to provide safe, lab tested medical cannabis for our citizens. That is our job, that is our moral responsibility, and we cannot fail our fellow hurting Georgians. We have waited too long already. How many more will continue to suffer while we wait on an inept federal government. It’s time to act.”
In the 2014 legislative session, Representative Peake was able to get a bill legalizing medical cannabis for the purpose of treating some seizure disorders passed by the State House, but in the Senate, Senator Renee Unterman (R) helped lead an effort to combine the bill with an autism insurance bill. The Senate passed the new form of the bill unanimously, but the House stripped the autism insurance provisions from it and sent it back to the Senate where it died. At the time, I was a page for the Senate and watched this epic medical marijuana melodrama unfold live, feeling the frustration between the two chambers throughout the Capital. Peake would have better luck the following year, though.
Finally, in 2015, Allen Peake was able to get House Bill 1, or Haleigh’s Hope Act, passed and signed into law by the Governor, but only after it was watered down by the legislative process. Then in 2016, Representative Peake sought to expand House Bill 1 to include more illnesses that can be treated by medical cannabis, but despite passing the House, Senator Renee Unterman, Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and Insurance Executive with Amerigroup, stalled the bill saying it needed more work. Peake attempted to attach his language to another Senate Bill, but when it returned to the Senate, it was never voted on and died.
All in all, Allen Peake has worked extremely hard to get Georgia where it is in terms of medical marijuana legalization and, as indicated by his sever criticisms, he does not agree at all with the DEA’s decision. However, the Federal Government does not seem like it will be bugging anytime soon on its ruling that marijuana, like LSD and Heroin, have “no currently accepted medical use in the Unites States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” Eventually, though, with mounting pressure from state governments, legislators like Allen Peake, changing public opinion, and now a resolution adopted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, marijuana will be moved from Schedule I to Schedule II.