The Republican race for House majority leader reveals how the new high-tech economy has gained prominence in state politics.

The three candidates to fill the position vacated by Rep. Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, all were connected to legislation involving non-traditional businesses. While staunchly holding traditional conservative values, they displayed an engagement with emerging industries associated with young “millennials” who espouse more liberal, urban-oriented views.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta and Rep. Jon Burns, R-Newington announced last week they will seek the House majority leader’s post after O’Neal resigned to accept the judgeship of the state tax tribunal.

Peake gained widespread media attention this past legislative session with his much admired sponsorship of medical marijuana legislation, which Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law last week. As Peake frequently said, he doesn’t see his bill allowing possession of a small amount of cannabis oil for medical use as the first step in a “slippery slope” toward legalization of marijuana in Georgia. Deal in backing the legislation also firmly stated he doesn’t want Georgia to follow Colorado in allowing recreational pot use.

Still, as Deal noted at the signing ceremony, the bill’s overwhelming passage reflected an evolution in values. When Peake began sponsoring his legislation in the 2014  session, many saw possession of even small amounts of cannabis oil with low levels of the intoxicant THC as equivalent to possessing marijuana. The suffering of children wracked by frequent seizures overcame opposition by conservative legislators, law enforcement agencies and religious organizations. 

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