Cagle to DA’s: Don’t prosecute parents over medical marijuana

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Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Wednesday he will ask Georgia’s district attorneys not to prosecute parents who obtain medical marijuana as part of an attempt to treat seizure disorders in their children.

“I will call personally upon every prosecutor in this state to not prosecute a parent who’s trying to obtain cannibis oil to help their children,” Cagle said at a capitol news conference. “Every prosecutor has that judgement and it’s the right thing to do.”

Cagle’s plea was a followup to unsuccessful legislative efforts this year to pass a bill that would have allowed the limited use of marijuana derivatives for the treatment of children with seizure disorders.

The medical marijuana bill (HB 885) passed the House overwhelmingly but got caught up in a disagreement between the two chambers over a bill adopted by the Senate (SB 397) that would have required insurance companies to cover autism treatments for young children.

Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), with the backing of Cagle and the Senate leadership, insisted that the autism bill be attached to the marijuana bill so that the House could vote on both of them at the same time. The House leadership opposed the autism bill, so both measures failed to pass as a result.

Cagle, Unterman, and several other senators held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the autism bill and the release of a report last week that showed autism among Georgia children is increasing.

During the news conference, Unterman was asked if she regretted seeing the medical marijuana bill fail to pass because of her insistence that the autism bill be included with it.

“I’m sorry for the way things worked out with the bills,” Unterman said. “I know now the consequences of it, but the Senate had a position on autism . . . we stuck with it.”

If the House leadership had allowed the marijuana-autism bill to come to the floor for a vote, Cagle contended it would have had enough support to pass.

“The bills were put together and we do believe if the bill had come to the floor for a vote, it would have passed by a very large margin,” he said.

The autism bill was one of those issues that caused a split between the Senate, which passed it unanimously, and the House, which didn’t take a vote on it.

The bill was opposed by several business and insurance organizations, including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which argued the measure would be an expensive mandate for businesses.

“This is really about our investment in our future,” Cagle said. “It is not a mandate.”

“I’ve read articles that called it ‘Obamacare lite,’” Unterman said. “That is exactly not true. It is not true at all.”

Supporters of the autism bill said it would ultimately save the state money, on the grounds that early intervention with an autistic child can help them lead more productive lives as an adult.

“We can help children, we can help children with special needs, we can save money,” Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) said. “This is the biggest no-brainer we can ever do here.”

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: autism coverage , Casey Cagle , John Albers , medical marijuana , Renee Unterman