Commission Hears Sheriffs’ Objections to Medical Cannabis in Georgia
(APN) ATLANTA — The Wednesday, October 28, 2015 meeting of the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis heard testimony from law enforcement officials, the Georgia Pharmacy Association, and a medical cannabis security specialist.
The high point of the day was when Rick Allen, Director of the Georgia Drug and Narcotic Agency, mentioned the State of Connecticut has rescheduled cannabis from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II drug.
“Connecticut has issued its own controlled substance licence, as has most other states. Georgia could do this because our controlled substance act was written in the 1970’s but Georgia never moved to create our own permit,” Allen said.
“The State of Georgia can reschedule cannabis from schedule I to schedule II, which means it does have medical value and that freezes up the whole issue about federal law and puts Georgia in with several other states that have rescheduled cannabis to Schedule II. I believe that is a major step forward,” James Bell, Director, Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform and Education (GA CARE) told Atlanta Progressive News.
The federal government still has cannabis categorized as a Schedule I drug.
However, there is movement on the federal level with the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act. If passed, the bill would reduce the federal government’s ability to crack down on state legal medical marijuana programs. It would also reschedule cannabis, on the federal level, from schedule I to schedule II.
- 683 has been stuck with fifteen co-sponsors since July 28, 2015, when U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) became the most recent to sign on.
APN asked State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) what he thought Georgia could do to reschedule cannabis to a lower category.
“I think it would just be legislation and the will of the General Assembly. I think that is something we can do through the legislative process,” Rep. Peake told Atlanta Progressive News.
“You heard indications today that it potentially could make it easier. But as long as there are still federal oversight and burdens, because at the federal level it is still schedule I, I’m not sure it’s the panacea it may be perceived to be,” Rep. Peake said to APN.
The Georgia Sheriff’s Association position concerning medical cannabis was presented by the Sheriff Steve Wilson, President of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association.
He gave a five point presentation that mostly opposed everything, including last year’s HB 1 legislation.
State Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) responded that the process would not have been this far along without the willingness of the law enforcement community to listen and put the well being of voters who are medically fragile above their own beliefs and opinions.
“I am again disappointed with the sheriff’s association statements. I wish they would leave medical issues to healthcare providers. We have a larger discussion going on called harm reduction and criminal justice reform,” Sharon Ravert, Executive Director, Peachtree National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told APN.
“Marijuana is not a gateway to anything but a criminal record. We are arresting 30,000 citizens a year for marijuana, as we talk about never becoming like Colorado. We must end Prohibition, ” Ravert told APN.
Dr. Barry Logan, a forensic toxicologist who has done research on drugs and driving, testified the most significant adverse effect of cannabis was impairment of concentration and psychomotor skills that slow down reaction time.
Dr. Logan is supportive of an impairment standard for jurisdictions that have increased access to cannabis products. Some states have legislated different levels of impairment that range from one nanogram per mil to five nanograms per mil.
Several people said that no one wants seriously impaired drivers on the road to endanger others whether the impairment is from alcohol, prescription drugs, or cannabis.
Another speaker, Kevin Florence, with the Georgia Pharmacy Association, talked about the importance of pharmacists being involved in counseling each patient regarding interaction between the cannabis oil and any other medications they may be taking.
Under current federal law, pharmacists would be precluded from being involved in distribution of cannabis oil, because they would risk losing their licenses.
Since pharmacists cannot dispense the oil, a retail distribution center will likely be set up that is privately owned.
The last testimony was from Cody Stiffler, Regional Vice President of Government Affairs for Bio-Tech Medical Software d/b/a BioTrackTHC.
His company is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and has the software to track cannabis from seed to sell.
They have government contracts with the states of Washington, Illinois, New Mexico, and New York.
“BioTrackTHC is the only cannabis technology company that has successfully deployed cannabis technology to the private sector and also to the government sector,” Stiffler told the Commission.
There are about twenty other software companies that can track the product from seed to sell.
The final Georgia Medical Cannabis Hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, December 01, 2015, and will be an all day meeting.