ATLANTA (AP) — State Rep. Allen Peake said Monday he will make a pitch to a powerful Senate committee later this week to meld two widely-divergent medical marijuana bills passed by the upper and lower chambers of the General Assembly.
The Republican's bill would legalize cannabis oil for treatment of people with seizure disorders, cancer and seven other medical diagnoses.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Tippins of Marietta, whose bill would set up a 5-year-clinical study of a marijuana extract for people under 21 with epilepsy, said Peake's measure is "entirely too broad" but that he feels a compromise is possible.
Both bills passed overwhelmingly to the Senate's Health and Human Services committee. Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said last week she would like to see a compromise, perhaps adding some additional diagnoses to Tippins' measure from Peake's.
"My best case scenario is that we can have a bill voted out of the Senate committee Thursday," Peake told The Associated Press. "And then it would be voted on by the entire Senate. If my House colleagues are comfortable with changes, I will encourage the House to agree with the revised bill and then we send it to the governor."
He said he hopes the Senate committee refrains from making too many changes because Gov. Nathan Deal wants a medical marijuana law.
Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana laws with no limit on the levels of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient. An additional 12 states have medical marijuana laws only for epilepsy with limits on THC.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a medical marijuana law Feb. 26 for epilepsy with limits of 5 percent THC.
Peake's version would allow a THC level of 5 percent and people could obtain up to 20 ounces.
"To Sen. Unterman's credit on this issue, she has patiently listened and taken time for the families that can be potentially affected," he said.
But he said he's going to "advocate that we keep" all nine medical conditions because "the danger is we remove one or two here and there" any measure quickly becomes too watered down. At least 17 Georgia families have moved to Colorado for treatment and Peake and Unterman have said they want to find a way to bring them home.
He said his bill could help up to 500,000 Georgians almost immediately, while Tippins' bill would benefit only a handful.
Tippins is not a committee member but will attend the meeting Thursday and is "quite willing to see if we can come to common ground."
J. Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association, told Tippins in a letter that his organization is "uncomfortable with thoughts of legalizing marijuana for any purpose, but after hearing from the families of children suffering seizure disorders decided not to oppose" the Senate bill.