Rep. Peake Maneuvers Medical Cannabis around Sen. Unterman
Several years ago she held HB 855 hostage, and now its HB 722.
However, the unsinkable State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who authored HB 722, has come up with another way to fight for suffering Georgians and go around Sen. Unterman’s committee.
HB 722–Peake’s original bill this year to expand the medical cannabis oil immunity to include new eligible medical conditions–had passed the State House on February 29, 2016, with overwhelming bipartisan support 152 yeas and only 8 nays.
It had originally proposed in-state cultivation, but that was removed in Committee.
But when HB 722 headed over to the Senate and was assigned to Unterman’s Committee, the bill was doomed.
Not to be deterred, Rep. Peake revived an earlier bill, SB 145, that passed the Senate last year, on March 13, 2015; it was a bill adding a new Board Member to the Georgia Board of Community Health.
Peake added much of the text of the version of HB 722 that had passed the House, to SB 145, which then passed the House Governmental Affairs Committee last week, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016.
The new SB 145 next goes to the House Rules Committee, and then to the full House for a vote. If it passes the House, it will then go to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who will decide if the bill will get a full Senate vote in its new form, Peake’s office told APN.
Sen. Unterman may be on the Conference Committee, so she could influence the bill, but can no longer unilaterally hold it up.
“It seems so cruel that year after year the same Senator would kill a bill that is meant to help so many suffering Georgia patients,” Sharon Ravert, Executive Director, Peachtree NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), told Atlanta Progressive News.
Unterman’s decision to stop this bill could have had disastrous consequences for those hundreds of Georgians who are suffering with debilitating medical conditions like little baby Reid Underwood.
Reid Underwood has an extremely rare and painful and skin condition, Epidermolysis Bullosa. Now his family cannot get him the help he needs in Georgia.
Nor will our veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTDS) get any help, if Unterman has her way.
Unterman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there is not enough time for her to study the different medical conditions that have been added and that she feels pushed.
However, Unterman was a member of the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis that held dozens of hearings all last year with expert witnesses on this issue.
The additional medical conditions that Unterman does not understand were explained in the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis meeting by patients and doctors.
They are Tourette’s Syndrome; Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare skin disorder; Autism Spectrum Disorder; HIV and AIDS; Peripheral Neuropathy; Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; and Terminal Illness with a life expectancy of less than two years.
Joshua Littrell, founder of Veterans for Cannabis, told APN that his group tried to educate Sen. Unterman.
“Her excuse that she needs more information and studies is not valid because she did not show up to many of the cannabis hearings that she was a member,” Littrell said.
“She is uninformed because she was not paying attention when she did show up to the meetings. I watched her when people were testifying and she was on her phone or doing something else. She was not attentive during the meetings and that’s unacceptable for a legislator,” Littrell said.
“We are choosing to live illegally than to die legally at the hands of the Veterans Administration. It’s terrible that we have to break laws to get medicine that we know helps us and we won’t overdose and die from,” Littrell said
Last week, 11 Alive television news reported that Sen. Unterman has a dual role as Chair of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee and as an executive with a health insurer (Amerigroup) that has a billion dollar a year state Medicaid contract, the largest contract with the State of Georgia.
Unterman appeared to be physically shaking in the interview, which was cut short by staffers including Republican strategist Todd Rehm.
Advocates are also asking why Republican Todd Tyson qualified to run against Unterman in the May 2016 Primary, but withdrew his candidacy by petition. Tyson is President and CEO of Hi-Tech Healthcare and Area Manager of Lincare, Inc. (d/b/a Hi-Tech Healthcare).