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Meeting on cannabis oil bill held in Covington
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Georgia legislator Allen Peake will make the case for a bill legalizing cannabis oil for medicinal purposes this Monday in Covington as part of an event organized by Newton Conservative Liberty Alliance.

Haleigh's Hope Act died in the Georgia House of Representatives last year after initially passing both houses when an unrelated bill mandating small businesses offer autism insurance was attached to it.

The legislation is named after a little girl from Peake's home district of Macon who suffers from 100 to 200 seizures a day. Cannabis oil has been shown to reduce seizures in children and is currently in clinical trial.

"I was confident [it would pass] last year and then it just got held up in the political game," said Peake. "I think we all learned a valuable lesson from that...I feel confident that my colleagues have all gotten it."

The proposed bill, known as HB1, consists of two parts, he explained. The first would prevent prosecution against Georgians who legally purchase cannabis oil from another state and bring it back, although federal law still prohibits the transfer or cannabis products from one state to another; the second would create a regulatory structure for the cultivation, processing and sale of cannabis oil.

Peake's push for support comes just two weeks after a local Covington family was forced to relocate to Colorado, where cannabis oil is legal, for their daughter who suffers from debilitating seizures.

Kelli and Mike Hopkins, who lost two children this year already, have been vocal in their fight to legalize cannabis oil, winning over many in the community who would otherwise oppose any form of marijuana legalization. Kelli is currently living in Boulder with their two children, Marlee Ann and Michala, while Mike travels back and forth to continue his duties as the executive director of the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority.

Mike Hopkins urged the community to listen to Peake, adding that the lawmaker has been the driving force behind the legislation, meeting with affected families and those involved in the medical marijuana industry.

"Even if you're against it, you need to come and hear what he has to say," said Hopkins. "I want people to make up their own minds...I think Peake is trying to lay a solid foundation that protects all parties and the public must understand what's being offered."

Peake said Georgia should be working to reunite families like the Hopkins, not splitting them apart by refusing to make treatments available in their home state.

Peake estimated that cannabis oil could be legally available in Georgia as soon as nine months after the governor signs the bill, if it passes. He emphasized that homegrown marijuana for oil production is key, because many families cannot afford to travel so often to buy it and others rightly fear federal prosecution for transporting it over state lines.

Peake urged interested members of the community to attend Monday's meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. at Square Perk Café in downtown Covington, where he will present the bill in greater detail.