Med­i­cal mar­i­juana one step closer for Ge­or­gians liv­ing with HIV/AIDS

GA Voice - - News Briefs -

Gov. Nathan Deal drew a flood of at­ten­tion on March 3 when he came out against dis­crim­i­na­tory leg­is­la­tion like House Bill 757, the anti-LGBT bill roil­ing the state. The at­ten­tion wasn’t just due to what Deal said but how he said it—by mak­ing a bib­li­cal ar­gu­ment against such leg­is­la­tion. On March 8, a prom­i­nent group of Ge­or­gia clergy gath­ered to praise Deal and add to the grow­ing op­po­si­tion to the bill as the ses­sion nears its end on March 24.

“The word of God in all of our faiths must bring peo­ple to­gether, not drive them apart,” said Rev. Wil­liam Flip­pin, Jr. of Emanuel Lutheran Church. “His words were in­spir­ing and should make all pub­lic lead­ers con­sider what we are called to do.”

Rabbi Joshua Heller of Con­gre­ga­tion B’nai To­rah called the bill a “disas­ter” in its cur­rent form, say­ing, “It makes our faith into a blud­geon to beat up other peo­ple.”

Sev­eral of the faith lead­ers also called for com­pre­hen­sive civil rights leg­is­la­tion as they spoke in the court­yard of Cen­tral Pres­by­te­rian Church, with the state Capi­tol as a back­drop. But over­all the theme of the event, which in­cluded Pas­tor in Res­i­dence Molly McGin­nis of Cen­tral Pres­by­te­rian Church and Rev. Su­san Tay­lor of Starrsville United Methodist Church, was grat­i­tude for Deal’s words and op­po­si­tion to HB 757.

While the state’s LGBT com­mu­nity has been try­ing to avoid tak­ing steps back­ward with anti-LGBT bills like HB 757, there is a sliver of good news to re­port from the Gold Dome. A bill that would ex­pand the list of med­i­cal con­di­tions that can be treated with med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­cludes HIV/AIDS, and it’s one step closer to pas­sage.

House Bill 722 is the brain­child of state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Ma­con), who has been a med­i­cal mar­i­juana cham­pion th­ese last two leg­isla­tive ses­sions. Pres­sure from Gov. Nathan Deal and law en­force­ment groups forced HIV/AIDS and other con­di­tions to be stripped from last year’s bill, so Peake in­tro­duced HB 722 this year both to ex­pand the list of med­i­cal con­di­tions and to cre­ate a state-spon­sored pro­gram to grow and man­u­fac­ture med­i­cal mar­i­juana in-state.

That se­cond fac­tor was key since, while low-dose cannabis oil is le­gal in Ge­or­gia for those with the ap­proved con­di­tions, they have to travel out of state to get it, putting them in fear of pros­e­cu­tion in other states. How­ever, law en­force­ment groups stepped in again this year and killed that por­tion of the bill.

The House passed the wa­tered-down ver­sion of the bill on Feb. 29, which in ad­di­tion to adding HIV/AIDS to the ap­proved med­i­cal con­di­tions would in­clude post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, epi­der­mol­y­sis bul­losa, Tourette’s syn­drome and more.

HB 722 is now un­der con­sid­er­a­tion in the Se­nate.

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