On Wednesday night, UGA College Republicans invited Representative Allen Peake to speak on the status of medical cannabis legalization in Georgia. Rep. Peake is one of the more vocal Republican legislators currently advocating for the legalization and cultivation of medical cannabis in the state of Georgia.
Rep. Peake’s work towards legalization began after receiving an email one day from a constituent named Janea Cox, whose daughter Haleigh was suffering from severe epilepsy. Cox implored Peake to push for the legalization of medical cannabis in Georgia, as research had proven cannabis to be an incredibly effective treatment for conditions such as epilepsy. A staunch conservative, Peake has never smoked pot in his life, and had never given much thought toward the issue of medical cannabis legalization. Initially hesitant to devote his efforts towards the legalization cause, Peake had a change of heart after visiting Haleigh in the hospital and considering to what lengths he would go in order to abate suffering should Haleigh have been his child.
After hearing several Georgian’s stories of their success with medical cannabis treatment, Peake began working to promote the issue through legislation. In 2015, Rep. Peake sponsored HB 1 in the General Assembly, which would grant immunity from prosecution from patients who possed cannabis oil to treat one or more of eight specific conditions. Other provisions in HB 1 included a requirement for patients to register with the state, a possession limit of no more than 20 ounces of cannabis oil per patient, and the creation of the Commission on Medical Cannabis. After HB 1 passed in April of 2015, Rep. Peake was appointed the inaugural chairman of the Commission on Medical Cannabis, which consists of other legislators and professionals who are well-versed on the subject of medical cannabis. One of tasks of the commission was to make a recommendation to Gov. Nathan Deal on whether or not medical cannabis should be cultivated legally in Georgia.
Rep. Peake went on to explain that, while HB 1 was a huge milestone in the fight for medical cannabis, there is still much work to be done. Peake noted that polls indicate over 80 percent support for the expansion of the current state medical cannabis laws in Georgia. Two House Resolutions regarding medical cannabis were introduced by Peake and other legislators during the 2018 legislative session. HR 36 would put a referendum on the November 2018 ballot for voters to decide on the cultivation and sale of medicinal cannabis in Georgia. HR 645 would grant licenses to two state institutions to begin cultivation.
Currently, patients who suffer from one of the conditions listed in HB 1 are allowed to possess cannabis oil in Georgia, however they are not allowed to cultivate or purchase it. In fact, Peake is so committed to helping ailing Georgians that he actually distributes cannabis oil brought into the state from Colorado free of charge to patients. Though he acknowledges this as a felony, Peake hopes his clandestine efforts will allow people to recognize the growing need for expanded medical cannabis legislation in Georgia.
Rep. Peake’s lecture only lasted about 20 minutes, however the Q&A session that followed lasted much longer. The bulk of the questions came from College Republicans, despite the issue of marijuana often being associated with the progressive agenda. Although College Republicans hosted the event, the room was packed with students of all different political backgrounds, and Peake pointed out that he was not surprised that college students had such a keen interest in the weed issue. Also in attendance were several members of the Athens C.A.R.E Project which is a local organization working to educate the UGA student body on the benefits of marijuana along with the disastrous effects of the drug war, as well as collaborate with Athens legislators to push for cannabis legalization in the city.
-Connor Foarde is Campus News Editor at The Arch Conservative