Now that the fight over medical marijuana has moved into the realm of law-breaking and civil disobedience, Gov. Nathan Deal seems to have a message for the measure’s chief sponsor: Put your money where your mouth is.
The governor said it was “problematic to say the least” when he read that state Rep. Allen Peake told the AJC’s Political Insider that he’s getting medical marijuana from states where it’s legal and bringing it across state lines for a child suffering from debilitating seizures.
What he described could be considered a felony in the eyes of federal and even local prosecutors. Said Peake:
“We made sure families that were properly registered with the state have gotten the product that they needed for their child.
“Listen, I made a commitment to these families when I got involved, that I was willing to do whatever it took make sure they had access to a product from a reputable manufacturer. I’ve made good on that promise. If it involved civil disobedience, it’s been absolutely worth it….
“I got a text this morning from the mother of a young child who I delivered product to, and the heartfelt thanks from this mother, the difference in this child – the increase in cognitive ability, the reduction in seizures, has been worth every bit of risk that I’ve taken.”
Deal, when asked Tuesday about Peake's admission, paused before issuing a carefully-worded response:
“Everybody has to make their own decision. I would point out, however, that in the truest tradition of civil disobedience – Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. – the real emphasis of civil disobedience is accepting the punishment to what you consider to be unjust. I’ll leave it at that.”
The medical marijuana bill that took effect last year made it legal for people who suffer from cancer, sickle cell disease and other illnesses to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil if a physician signs off. It covered parents, patients and other caregivers - but not others, like Peake, without a license to obtain the drug.
But it's still illegal to cultivate marijuana in Georgia, which means families have to trek to Colorado and other states that have legalized the drug for medical purposes. That makes travel a tricky prospect, since most states, as well as the federal government, make possessing the drug a crime.
Peake's House Bill 722 would expand the number of diseases and conditions for which cannabis oil could be prescribed and allow for in-state cultivation of the drug. But it's also raised eyebrows from critics who worry it would pave the way to legalize recreational use of the drug and others fearful that it gives medical marijuana patients too much leeway.
Until now, the prospect of handcuffs for those who could be violating that law has been a remote specter. But what Deal just suggested was that Peake should be willing to pay the price for potentially breaking the law.
It is also the latest sign of a growing divide between the governor and a state lawmaker who was once among his most trusted lieutenants. Peake has already managed to muster enough support in the House to pass the measure despite Deal’s objections.
Peake, a Macon Republican, declined to comment. But Blaine Cloud, who is using the drug to treat his daughter Alaina's rare genetic disorder, said he was stunned by Deal's comments.
"He’s admitting that the law that we passed last year forces parents to break federal law to get the product back. He’s not just threatening Allen Peake. He’s threatening every parent that the law helped last year.
"Every single one of us is breaking federal law to get the product back here. And that’s the compromise that he put forth. Now that he’s backed off in-state cultivation, we’re left with breaking federal law.”