Mississippi Leads While Georgia Debates

This week’s Courier Herald Column:

Mississippi legalized a form of medical marijuana last week.  That’s right. Mississippi.

I do not in any way intend to demean my friends from Mississippi in saying that. I have very close friends from there. I call them “Aunt” And “Cousin”.  They are, in every way, awesome people.  As a Methodist family, they have moved all around their state, and I’ve visited most of their hometowns.  From Gautier on the Gulf Coast to Eupora and Oxford to the North, and places like Newton and Morton in between.  I like their state, and I like its people.

In many ways, Mississippi reminds me of the Georgia I knew growing up when Fayette County was still considered rural.  People knew their neighbors.  People spoke to each other in public and waved at other drivers as they passed.  And people always, if they saw a need, helped others.  Especially the children.  That’s the Georgia I grew up in, and the Mississippi I still enjoy visiting.

Mississippi saw a need and decided to address it.  Governor Bryant signed a bill into law last week allowing Cannabidiol oil to treat children with epileptic seizures.  The oil has been stripped of its THC, and thus, cannot get a patient high.

The science is still weak on whether the substance is truly effective, but for parents who have children suffering debilitating seizures, they have seen enough anecdotal evidence to believe.  The oil gives them hope where no other hope currently exists.  Mississippi lawmakers have decided that hope in the absence of anything else available to fill a need is sufficient.  They see the need.  They’ve done what they can to fill it.

Georgia’s lawmakers saw a similar need this past session.  Representative Allen Peake of Macon offered a bill that few thought would pass.  Yet at the beginning of the session, it was clear attitudes were changing.  Public comments from Speaker David Ralston and Senator Josh McKoon saying they would look to the science of medical marijuana with an open mind showed a major shift.  By Crossover day, Rep Peak has answered all but a handful of his house detractors.  His bill passed 171-4.  It would have done what Mississippi did last week.  It would have looked where hope was needed, and offered help.

Instead of help, the Senate offered hostages.  That was the word that Senator Rene Unterman used when talking to Atlanta TV reporter Lori Geary.  Unterman wanted a bill passed that would have mandated autism coverage for all Georgia insurance policies.

The bill was controversial within the autism community and vigorously opposed by a business community that is already trying to cope with uncertainly and dramatically escalating costs for their employees’ healthcare.   Yet Unterman insisted that without her bill, the bill that would have allowed Cannibidiol oil to treat children with chronic seizures would not pass.  And it did not.

Unterman may have had other motives.  There’s an opening for the Senate’s Majority Leader position next year with the retirement of Senator Ronnie Chance.  In a legislature, the opposite party is considered “the opposition” while the other chamber is considered “the enemy”.  Standing strong against the House to showcase personal backbone may have been as much about rounding out a resume as it was about supporting autistic children.  In the end, the children with autism were left with their status quo while the children suffering from seizures continue to have to look out of state if they wish to have treatment.

The Governor, lacking new authorization from the General Assembly, has conducted a review and issued a few executive orders.  They will pave the way for a path to clinical trials in conjunction with a drug manufacturer and Georgia Regents University.  The second would have the state conduct a clinical trial at Georgia Regents University using cannibidial oil obtained from…Mississippi.

Mississippi is still more conservative, and dare I say, more “Southern” than Georgia.  But they figured out how to get over preconceived notions, stereotypes, and politics to help kids.  Thankfully, it appears they’re willing to help us Georgians, too.


  1. Lea Thrace says:

    When one builds a house out of straw in a windy area, they should not be surprised when that house comes falling down when a little wind comes through.

    Georgia has unfortunately and increasingly built a political system that relies on gamesmanship and quid pro quo for the last 50 plus years. The people are forgotten in the process. But the people keep electing those that behave this way. We like it when our guy does it but not the other guy. No one to blame but ourselves. And no one can fix it until We The People decide to fix it.

  2. We have seen on Peach Pundit (ironically) a cataloged list of Republican party failures over the last 4 years. Other than getting a good article written in Site Selection Magazine, what are the successes?

  3. Mensa Dropout says:

    The irony of this whole issue with banning marijuana for medical reasons is that we southerners are more than willing to hoop up our six year olds on methamphetamines to get them to sit still at home/at school/at church, but we are abhorred at dropping some oil onto a child’s toungue to keep that child from having seizures?
    Someone please riddle me this.

  4. Three Jack says:

    Rene Unterman is in line to become majority leader of the state senate? Really? And I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

  5. Ellynn says:

    You Can add Wisconsin on to the list. Gov. Walker just signed a bill on this very topic late last week.

  6. LorieW says:

    Georgia already has an autism mandate on the books. Unterman’s “bill” was gutting it and making sure ABA was going to be paid. No one would have been better off if the autism/ABA bill had passed except ABA companies. Taking away existing coverage for children and individuals over age 6 was wrong. Also there would be no coverage under ACA benchmark plans. It was a poorly written and not well thought out bill. Maybe that was the plan.

  7. James Fannin says:

    Renee Unterman’s actions on this legislation serve as a perfect example of why an organization like the Tea Party was formed in the first place and why their anti-incumbency stance resonates with so many voters.

  8. Rick Day says:

    OK Charlie a few things.

    MS has also decrimmed possession of under one ounce of cannabis. But you can still get a DUI for having a used pipe in your vehicle, even if there is no cannabis present.

    Today, I returned from an exhasutive holiday fact finding tour at something called the Cannabis Cup. There I found a source for this CBD medication that has absolutely 0% THC (made from 100% ag hemp) that is perfectly legal for anyone in the US or the world to order. They sell it by the jar or by the 55 gallon drum and after discussing it with the owner of the company (US Hemp Oils, Inc.) they would be glad to work out a supply for the state to distribute and monitor as a study, or the parents can simply order it here http://www.ushempoil.com/index.php/company

    We don’t need a CBD bill or law.

    So potentially that problem solved without legislation. Now lets talk about bypassing all this ‘medical marijuana’ silliness and focus on creating a regulated and taxed system so GA can start reaping in the Green, so to speak. Like oil, there is money to be found underground, if you just bring it up to the surface. This is not a ‘growing’ industry, it is just no longer clandestine and tax avoiding.

    Today’s political champions will be tomorrows leaders. It is time to step up, guys. Start wrapping your head around this.

    I’ll be in contact with Rep Peake about this information, or Charlie can forward my email contact to anyone interested in this issue.

  9. WeymanCWannamakerJr says:

    Common sense doesn’t work. Until you can pay for more lobbyists and consequently those being lobbied more than the private prison/probation industry for just one, it just isn’t going to happen in Georgia. Just one company, Sentinel Offender Services, is on record for having spent $500,000 alone to get passage of HB 837 in this past session. This was not found out because of any transparency in the laws here but because of testimony by one of their execs in a California case. HB 837 makes oversight of this industry even more opaque. So right now at this moment the money that could benefit the taxpayers from legalizing and taxing does not compare with the money going directly to the lawmakers to keep the status quo.

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