Georgia legislators can’t be YES on medical cannabis AND big pharma

Say what you want about financial contributions to politicians, most of them aren’t made out of the kindness and goodness of someone’s heart. Generally speaking, campaign donations are made for political clout and as a “favor for later,” especially from lobbyists.

Donations are made by lobbying groups and corporations during the off season in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,500, depending on the loyalty of the legislator. Certainly, the amount goes up for those who tend to sponsor legislation or consistently vote with the group, understandably. Politics is about power, after all, and money is power.

But what happens when interests conflict?

Over the weekend, I read an Associated Press article that detailed the contributions pharmaceutical companies make to Georgia legislators and the money they spending lobbying legislators. The amounts, detailed in the article, are staggering:

  • In Georgia, state lawmakers received more than $1.2 million and were lobbied each year by an average of 41 people representing drug makers and related advocacy groups.
  • Georgia ranked No. 8 in the nation for contributions from opiate-related lobbying groups
  • Pfizer, a company that has brick and mortar locations in state, spent $622,686 on Georgia legislators from 2006 through 2015
  • Governor Deal received almost $90,000 in the same time period, more than anyone else in the state. He’s also the 7th highest recipient in the nation.

In-state cultivation didn’t pass last session for a number of reasons. Some say it isn’t politically popular, other says it’s not a conservative policy and with a Republican majority would be political suicide, and a select few believe that a pharmaceutical company that would likely receive the contract for growing just isn’t ready yet. With statistics like those above, it’s hard to believe the road to treatment isn’t paved with cash.

Legislators love to be for the children. They want to take the photos helping sick children, they want to tell their constituents they voted to keep families from traveling out of state for medical care, and they want the glory of a child smiling. But when the money trumps the feelings, what do they choose? WHO do they choose?

The majority of the efforts of the medical cannabis and marijuana community are led by needy parents who have sick children. Those parents, while they have facts on their sides, are appealing to the hearts of elected officials in an effort to allow in-state cultivation in the Peach State. Currently, Georgia’s medical cannabis laws are narrow and exclusive, allowing only a certain number of illnesses to be covered by the state-endorsed racket. Despite overwhelming support for expansion from all over the state, only a selected few can reap the medical benefits. The rest remain at the mercy of the state.

Or the almighty dollar.

While even the discussion of in-state cultivation has been drowned out by religious freedom, states of emergency, and blocked pro-second amendment conversations, the Georgia legislature continues to pass, and at a minimum seriously contemplate, pro-pharmaceutical legislation. Medical associations and coalitions of drug companies continue to publicly oppose any type of legislation that would make cannabis more accessible in Georgia and around the country. This Washington Post article and chart speak volumes about why:

Perhaps the medical marijuana pathway isn’t right for Georgia. Maybe it’s bad for business. It could possibly make life more difficult for law enforcement around the state. It could create more government if we continue to legislate it the same way Haleigh’s HOPE Act was created. It could do a lot of things.

But we’ll never know if our elected officials continue to focus on the financial benefits from one of the biggest opponents of any type of medical marijuana expansion. Good policy is won’t be crafted by working to accommodate those who are against it.

Here are the contributions to Georgia legislators from Pfizer alone from January 1, 2013 thru September 1, 2016.

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