“I’ve become a believer…” So says State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon). He is pushing a bill in the General Assembly that would allow legal, liquid-form cannabis — marijuana — for certain children who suffer from seizures that apparently can’t be stopped or limited in any other way.
This is a tightrope for the majority Republicans. Activists for, and opponents of, legalized recreational pot across America believe that legalized medical marijuana can potentially serve as a step toward blanket legalization. Some are sure to point out that if cannabis can be helpful in controlling seizures in children that other, specifically designed drugs can’t control, then what other healthful benefits might pot provide? It’s good for what ails you, or so will go the claim.
No matter. At least two polls, including one by InsiderAdvantage, show that a majority of Georgians support medicinal marijuana for these desperately ill children. Moreover, local Atlanta TV has adopted the issue, thereby plucking the heartstrings of thousands of people who barely know the General Assembly is even in session. Too, there was a pro-legalization rally at the State Capitol on Tuesday. It also drew media sympathy.
When some Georgia Republican leaders were first confronted with these political and media realities, they were privately taken aback; believe us. With legalized pot making huge news in Colorado, now might seem like the worst time possible for the Georgia GOP to entertain anything to do with legal marijuana, in any form and under any circumstances. Sure enough, the Georgia Christian Coalition says it fears in the proposed legislation a nefarious conspiracy to legalize marijuana for less respectable reasons than medical ones.
This is a political website, so we won’t debate the medical or moral reasons for or against the proposed bills. But the truth of it is that GOP leaders are largely boxed in by both common sense and public sentiment. In some way or form, they’re going to have to somehow jump on this train to legalize pot for these specific medical reasons.
It shouldn’t surprise us if Speaker David Ralston in the House, and the party’s leadership in the Senate, decide to punt the issue by calling for further study, rather than for an immediate legalization bill. These GOP leaders might feel they need more than anecdotal testimony from the parents of suffering children, heartfelt as it may be, in order to move forward. They need authoritative testimony from physicians and other experts. And that may take more time than is available this session.
However, there is an existing law in place that would provide a legal mechanism by which legalized medicinal cannabis could happen this year. But the GOP has its base to worry about this election year. That may preclude any serious movement on the legalization bill.
Some of the Republican base may indeed be steamed at seeing the party’s leaders entertaining notions about legalized pot — for anyone. But most of them are likely to turn out anyway to vote against the Democrats in November, if not for Republicans. Disdain for President Obama and Washington Democrats is the reason.
On the other hand, our own InsiderAdvantage polling shows that independent voters are on the increase in Georgia. They will likely decide things this fall. And the more legalized cannabis for sick children gets publicity, the more independents are going to favor it.
The Republicans in the House and Senate should too.