Political Notes: Medical marijuana bill finally moves

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Rep. Allen Peake’s medical marijuana bill finally received a favorable vote in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Monday after languishing in that committee for more than a month.

As the bill’s number would indicate, HB 1 was among the first measures introduced this session but is only now getting a “do pass” in its committee. It moves to the Rules Committee, which would decide if it goes to the floor for a vote by the full House.

Peake’s bill as originally drafted would have authorized the use of cannibis oil to treaty a lengthy list of medical conditions and also would have opened the door to cultivating marijuana in Georgia.

At the insistence of Gov. Nathan Deal, and to the dismay of legalization advocates, the cultivation provisions were dropped from the bill and the list of authorized medical ailments was reduced.

“Critter bills” are suddenly popular

For the past week, it seems that the Legislature has been passing more bills that deal with four-legged creatures rather than those two-legged mammals known as human beings.

The House passed one of these “critter bills” on Monday, voting 163-2 to adopt HB 70, which designates the white-tailed deer as the official state mammal.

The bill was originally proposed by a group of first grade students at the Reese Road school in Columbus and, in its first version, would have designated the gray fox as Georgia’s state mammal.

The kids were persuaded to sub in the white-tailed deer at the request of the Department of Natural Resources because of the economic impact of the state’s deer hunters.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-Columbus), the bill’s author, said passage of HB 70 would teach those first graders that “an idea can turn into a bill.”

“This will not impede my ability to continue to eat this fine looking deer?” asked Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway). He was assured it would not.

“We do have a deer season here and the season will not be affected,” Hugley said. “We appreciate the hunters. If the population of deer becomes too dense, it becomes a problem.”

“If this aggravating nuisance of an animal becomes a state symbol, is it ever going to be where we can’t protect our crops and property just because it happens to be the state mammal?” asked Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton). McCall and Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) cast the only votes against the bill.

“It’s not going to become a protected class, if that’s what you’re asking,” Hugley said.

The House vote for the white-tailed deer followed a vote on Friday to pass HB 160, which would make it legal to trap raccoons in “that area north of and including Carroll, Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Barrow, Jackson, Madison, and Elbert counties at any time during the year.”

“Raccoons one day, white-tailed deer the next,” House Speaker David Ralston said. “I am really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Honoring Cotton

While we’re on the topic of critters, state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced this week that Cotton, the insurance department’s longest serving arson dog, died Feb. 19, after a brief illness.

“We’ll always remember Cotton as a valuable employee in the fight against arson,” Hudgens said. “Without his special abilities, hundreds of suspicious fire in Georgia may have gone unsolved.”

Cotton, a Labrador retriever, was born in 2001 and began his training as an arson detection dog in August 2003 at the Maine State Police Training Center in Alfred, Maine. He started working for the insurance department in September 2003 as the state’s sixth arson canine.

Cotton and his handler, Bruce Gourley, were involved in more than 3,000 fire investigations between September 2003 and January 2014. His specialized training in sniffing out petrochemical products enabled him to determine if accelerants had been used to start a fire.

TAG week

The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) is holding its annual “High Technology Week” at the capitol to buttonhole lawmakers about their legislative agenda.

TAG is focusing on SB 89, a bill introduced by Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) under the name of the Digital Classroom Act. SB 89 would require elementary and high school instructional materials to be available in digital or electronic format by July 1, 2020.

© 2015 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Allen Peake , arson dog , Carolyn Hugley , digital textbooks , insurance department , John Albers , medical marijuana , raccoons , Ralph Hudgens , state mammal , white-tailed deer