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