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Tide May be Turning on Medical Cannabis in Georgia Legislature (UPDATE 1)

(APN) ATLANTA -- The tide appears to be turning in Georgia with regard to the issue of medical cannabis, or marijuana, after two leading Republican lawmakers in the State Legislature expressed their openness to the idea of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes in Georgia.

As first reported by WSB-TV Channel 2, on January 07, 2014, Republican State Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) called for hearings on medical marijuana; then, on January 09, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) told Channel 2 he would be open to the idea.

"I have some concerns about it quite frankly but I think, let's take the politics out of it, and look at the science and hear the medical professionals,” Ralston said.

Sen. McKoon has pointed to a 1980 Georgia law that allows medical marijuana to be used by people with cancer and glaucoma as part of a state research program.  It was signed into law by Gov. George Busbee but has laid dormant for over thirty years.  

"The 1980 bill was never implemented because they never staffed the medical board that was to oversee the implementation of the bill.  There was a problem with sourcing.  All the marijuana had to come from a federal facility that closed down shortly after the bill was passed," Chad Brock, Legislative Counsel with American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, told Atlanta Progressive News.

"It is our hope that with a few simple tweaks, we can amend and resurrect the law that is currently on the books,"  Brock said.

James Bell, Director of the Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform & Education (Georgia CARE); and members of other groups have been meeting with State officials about the issue, seeking advice on how to proceed and offering information on the topic.

"There is interest in forming a study committee to examine the issue.  A lot of very important legislation, including criminal justice reform, started by forming a study committee," Brock said.  "We are optimistic, but we know it will be a hard and long fight."

Cannabis has dominated national news lately, with Colorado taking in one million dollars the first day cannabis was sold legally in that state on January 01, 2014.  It's becoming the hottest topic in the U.S.   One cannot turn on the television without seeing documentaries, news stories, and TV personalities talking about it.

"We need to find the facts about medical marijuana and put it in front of legislators, so they can make decisions on facts not scare tactics, fears, misinformation, and emotions," Bell told APN.

APN's decision to ask political candidates about their positions on medical cannabis over the last several years provided activists with a key resource that they have used to their advantage.

"APN did a story a few years ago, and listed some legislators who were interested in medical marijuana.  I actually took your list and started with that.  Now we have a hot list of fifteen legislators who have shown interest in studying medical marijuana," Bell said.  

State Reps. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta), and Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) have each committed during candidate interviews or questionnaires with APN their support for medical cannabis.

"We have support from people who are on the right, left, and middle.  It affects so many people with medical and criminal justice issues," Bell said.

Georgia CARE and other reform organizations are preparing to make their presence known at the State Capitol and are planning the Second Annual Cannabis Awareness Day at the Gold Dome.

"We have been educating the public for about two years.  We held our first meeting of the year Tuesday at Manuel's Tavern.  We had 54 people in attendance," Sharon Ravert, Executive Director with Peachtree NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), told APN.  

That first meeting was during the Arctic Plunge with temperatures around zero degrees, and a wind chill of negative fifteen degrees in Atlanta.  People came from around the state.  The room was too small to hold all the people and they plan to have a larger room next month.  

"We had activist training this month.  Next month we are going to have speakers come from different groups and some legislators.  We will be holding monthly meetings the first Tuesday of every month at Manuel’s Tavern from 7pm to 9pm," Ravert said.

"We are optimistic that people in Georgia are opening up their eyes and realizing that the laws are more harmful to our citizens than marijuana," Ravert said.

As reported earlier in APN, the U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population.  The U.S. locks up a higher percentage of its population than any democratic society in history.

Peachtree NORML and Georgia NORML have been conducting a poll of Georgia voters views on medical marijuana.  The results of that poll are expected soon.  

According to national opinion polls, cannabis legalization has grown to be a popular issue.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted medical cannabis laws and many others states are now considering it.  The twenty states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.



CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated the forthcoming poll was being conducted by Georgia CARE; however, the poll is being conducted by Georgia NORML and Peachtree NORML.

Comments (15)

Said this on 1-11-2014 At 09:07 pm

§ 26-4-29. Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency; continuance; appointment, requirements, and duties of director; power to make arrests; report of violations of drug laws; dangerous drug list (e) The Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency shall compile and submit to the General Assembly during each annual legislative session a list of known dangerous drugs as defined in subsection (a) of Code Section 16-13-71 and any other drugs or devices which the board has determined may be dangerous or detrimental to the public health and safety and should require a prescription, and the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency shall assist the State Board of Pharmacy during each annual legislative session by compiling and submitting a list of substances to add to or RESCHEDULE substances enumerated in the schedules in Code Sections 16-13-25 through 16-13-29 by using the guidelines set forth in Code Section 16-13-22.

Said this on 1-11-2014 At 09:10 pm

The FDA & DEA have accomplished a rescheduling in theory. Georgia could easily use this template.

Bill Booth
Said this on 2-25-2014 At 04:09 am

I personally suffer from back and leg pains, headaches, restless leg sydrome (RLS)and cannabis does help in each of my ailments and also helps me sleep !

I also have degenerative disc desease,osteoarthritus, and very bad bone spurs and I suffer every single day and cannabis relieves so much of my pain. I VOTE and I want my state represenitives to VOTE YES to medical cannabis


Rick Day
Said this on 1-12-2014 At 04:52 pm

Correction: Georgia Care had nothing to to with the polling that is about be released. The poll was commissioned by Peachtree NNORL and paid for by Georgia NORML.

Just setting the record straight.

Rick Day
Said this on 1-12-2014 At 04:54 pm

NORML. Sorry.

Said this on 1-15-2014 At 12:22 am

Well, thank God!!!!!Someone commissioned something!!! 

Said this on 1-13-2014 At 10:05 pm

This is why I left GA and moved to CO 5 years ago. I lived in this backward state for 33 years of my 38 yr old life. By the time 45 of the 50 states have legalized rights to marijuana, GA will be among the 5 states still holding on to the decades old reefer madness enslavement. This is how far behind GA is. Remember, this is the state where the Southern Baptist Convention was founded. Georgians should fight for it, I'm not saying to give up, only to realize that the old timer political heirarchy , law enforcement, and Southern Baptists are going to pull every trick, every styme ,every stall, every hardcore anti-legalization tactic they can to keep any kind of legalization from happening, even for MMJ.

And by the time most all states have recreational use rights, GA will probably just be getting MMJ rights on the books and I'd wager to bet that even then , growing your own MMJ will still be ILLEGAL under GA law. THIS is just how severe reefer madness is in GA. To my old former fellow Georgians, you're going to have one hell of an uphill battle ! Goodluck.

Said this on 1-15-2014 At 08:34 pm


I moved to Colorado because I was tired of the paranoia associated with growing marijuana in my closet. I started growing in 2005. It wasn't purely for leisure either, marijuana helped me break a prescription opiate dependence for legitimate back pain. I couldn't chance a social life because of the risk of getting a felony with prison time.GA courts throw the book at marijuana growers. I couldn't have any visitors in the old house I lived in for the chance that my plants would be smelled. During the time of 2005 to 2009 I had NO girlfriend either. I took every measure to cover every base from getting busted. Every 3 months I would replace my inline carbon air scrubber extraction filter in my closet to keep the skunky smell contained and on average they're expected to last 12 months.


I had ZERO social life. I kept my marijuana use hidden and very secret. ALL of what I grew I used, never sold any and kept a clean appearance always.Never even let people know I used it. I learned to bake edibles.I would eat a small baked edible in the morning with my other food after I got to work, then ate another edible with lunch, then I would go straight home in the late afternoon, lock up tight, and toke up the bong. I had prescription eye glasses that I kept tinted dark gray just so other people I was around at work would never see a good view of my eyes and tell that I was high.


All of this got old. Physically , I felt major improvement compared to when I was on prescribed opiates and even lost right at 40 pounds from 260 down to 220 over a period of about 18 months right when I first began to harvest and use marijuana regularly. But mentally, I felt extremely isolated and walled off and kept thinking "I will lose everything if I'm found out and busted". I started realizing that I'll never have peace of mind or any type of social life until I move to a freer open minded state like Colorado, I started saving up and cutting corners anyway I could to put back for relocating and a Uhaul van truck rental, and saved up around 4,600 dollars in a little over 2 years for that major move.


I knew I had developed a master green thumb and could likely find a job with little problem inside the Colorado MMJ industry after 4 years of dedicated growing and studying everything I could about marijuana. So in 2009 I left and moved to Colorado Springs. I wanted out so bad I didn't even have a place set up to live or a job lined up. I lived in a cheap slum motel for 5 weeks at 120 per week until I found an even cheaper but permanent place in a cheap and shady slum trailer park at 350 a month. 2 months after arriving in Colorado I finally got a job inside a MMJ dispensary and what a great relief it was getting 12 bucks an hour as a budtender. It was sometime 6 days a week but still an easy job.


My life started changing, I started making friends, started having a social life, the paranoia disappeared ,started saving up money again, everything started looking up and great.Before I left GA, I knew that between CA and CO , it was going to be between one or the other as to who would get real legalization because of politics and since CA has an awfully high cost of living and I love cooler weather, I chose CO. Anyway , after almost a year in Colorado Springs I moved to the Denver area after applying and getting hired at another MMJ dispensary that was larger with a state of the art high tech automated warehouse grow. I moved up into management after 2 years there. I only work 3 days a week now and earn more than I made when I first arrived in CO living in CO Springs working 6 days a week !


I now live in a rented 1200 sq ft modest cabin in the quiet rural foothills of the Rockies almost 20 mins west of Denver, not wealthy by any means but have a laid back , relaxed life, with very little pressure.I'm well established and extremely content. I never expected to work my way into a cushy job like I've got now. I was content with working up to 6 days a week as a budtender for 12 bucks an hour 5 years ago, it's nearly impossible to get a budtender job now without previous experience because so many crave employment into the legal marijuana market at any position they can get as well as the strict employment background checks the state implemented starting in 2010. The competition is fierce.


Thinking back 9 yrs ago around 2005 , at the chances I took for 4 years learning and honing my green thumb skills that GA law said and still says is illegal, if I hadn't taken those risks and put up with those isolated years in GA of reading everything online I could about learning growing techniques,marijuana food recipes, hash making,and ordering a grow light package kit, and chancing ordering seeds by mail from Europe to gain practical green thumb skills and experience, I wouldn't be here where I am in Colorado right now living a relaxed life. That pressure of extreme isolation and stress in GA trying to keep anyone from finding out about my personal grow of indoor plants , marijuana use , and gaining growing experience is what became the driving catalyst that led up to events bringing me to be where I am today.


GA's old 1980 MMJ bill could've been resurrected many years ago, it could've been re-written, with a lot of pressure pushing behind it and could've passed. When California passed their Prop. 215 MMJ bill in 1996, the campaign to point out the GA 1980 MMJ bill and have it re-written could've started. 20 states now have MMJ. Alaska , Arizona , California, Oregon, Montana stand a good chance with their recreational ballot for 2014.Nevada , Maine , Rhode Island will be campaigning for it between now and 2016.


The odds are that GA legislators will still be resisting their pro-mmj constituency even if all of those states I listed above ALL have successful RECREATIONAL legalization bills to pass at the end of this year. I still wouldn't bet that GA legislators would put forth a MMJ bill even in 2016, even if by the end of 2014 we have 10 states with RECREATIONAL legalization. That 1980 MMJ bill has been sitting on the books at the Atlanta capitol for soon to be 35 years ! With state, after state, after state passing MMJ since 1996 and no move has been made in GA to pull it up and re-write it. THAT is backward.


Those GA legislators will do just what North Carolina's Representive Paul Stam done to NC's MMJ House Bill 84 , tear it up and throw it in the trash and claim that it had to be done because the legislator's office were getting too many phone calls about it and couldn't get any work done. That's the type of dirty Christian "Taliban" type politicians that exist in the southern bible thumping state's political heriarchy. THAT's the type of dirty tactics that southerners who want legal rights will face.No other region of the US suffers reefer madness hysteria within their political structure like the south, especially GA.These are the same type of GA politicians that banned a candy in stores in 2008 from selling artificially flavored marijuana “tasting” candy from being sold to those under 18 called “Pot Suckers” and “Kronic Candy”, even made it a 500 dollar offense if they were caught selling it to kids. GA will be one of the very last states to change.


Leaving GA was the best decision I ever made in my life. I was one of the fortunate ones that had the will,preparation, and sacrifice to get out but a lot of right timing played a part in how things lined up for me shortly after I arrived. The Colorado Green Rush really started taking off shortly after the time I arrived. After the Ogden Memo in Oct 2009 , investors started opening dispensaries left and right in Colorado beginning in 2010 onward. It was the perfect timing of fate and destiny for me when I left GA. I don't blame other Georgians for wanting to relocate out of Georgia. I've got relatives I haven't seen in person since 2009 and I have no intentions on even visiting. I have to use webcam by internet to talk to them.


You can't blame the younger generation for wanting to get out of a state that's ruled by a bunch of old fashioned and overly religious old folks who impose their archaic will and dictate social values with their legislative power.









Greg B
Said this on 1-18-2014 At 04:07 pm

Let go of the past and allow us to move forward. This is important for all sides of this issue. Thanks!

Greg B
Said this on 1-18-2014 At 04:02 pm

Though it is understandable to be a little "shell shocked" after living thru the Drug War, please remember that the rest of us are still at risk. Don't be such a pessemist! We are All still (at least so far ) free Americans. We won't stand for this scandal much longer.

Bill Booth
Said this on 2-25-2014 At 04:16 am

Thank You we need to legalize medical Cannabis,I pray for all those who suffer from any kind of desease, and or cemotherapy, and RLS or any ailment that cannabis can help then I say Georgia get off your southern butts and VOTE 420

Jeremy S.
Said this on 1-15-2014 At 12:20 pm
We have been dooped by fallicies and inept policies that cause more harm than good.
Said this on 1-17-2014 At 03:04 am

To deny safe, effective medicine to people in great need is a"Crime Against Humanity".

Said this on 1-18-2014 At 12:27 am

I suffer excruciating back and neck disc pain and arthritus.  Marijuana alleviates my pain over pill use naturally;  its not bad on internal organs.  Most  prescription drugs have lots of side effects and can kill you!!  Marijuana does'nt kill you;  it's natural medicine and overall could bring up the current poor economic structure our country is in.  The states that are legal are becoming very wealthy through medicinal marijuana sales to the sick and painful patients in which they serve.  I presently live in GA and am praying everyday that Medical Marijuana prescriptions will become available soon for the ones that suffer from pain and other ailments everyday.

Bill Booth
Said this on 2-25-2014 At 04:25 am

I totally agree, I was rear ended by over 50 thousand lbs tractor trailer and cause damage to my neck and back n had to get a disc fusion in my c-4,c-5,c-6 and still suffer from head and soulder and right arm and hand pain from the wreck and I'd rather smoke some cannabis than to get hooked on opiates like oxycodone.I just recently started back to smoking pot and it has helped me so much and I also suffer from depression n cannabis is a big help in keeping me focused on things i need to get done,instead of negetive thoughts or my mind just wondering in la  la land.

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