Category Archives: Georgia

Why is Sen. Ben Watson turning his back on Georgia’s cannabis patients?

Let’s start with the TL;DR. If you read no further, check out this video created by a supporter.

I’m over it. My enthusiasm and January gung ho attitude of years past are long gone. 2017 is the fourth legislative session in which we will continue to fight for medical cannabis in Georgia. I’ll be honest. Before my son’s seizures and getting involved in cannabis advocacy, I didn’t pay much attention to state politics. Now that I do, the corruption and hypocrisy constantly makes me sick.

This year is already shaping up to be the same old garbage. The support we have comes from the House, while the Senate schemes to screw over sick people. Some names are no surprise. Sen. Renee Unterman  (R, Buford) has been at it since this all began, so when Senate Bill 16 dropped, a bill that aims to lower the amount of THC permitted in Georgia from 5% to 3%, taking away options from patients, the only surprise to me was that she was a co-sponsor, rather than the lead.

The lead sponsor still came as a bit of a surprise, though. Doctor and Senator Ben Watson (R, Savannah) was a representative when all this started. He was very supportive of the original bills introduced by Allen Peake. He was even interviewed in his medical office, wearing his white coat, for the documentary Growing Hope: Georgia’s Fight for Cannabis Oil. In fact, check this video out at the 2:08 mark. (Side note: That’s my adorable kiddo at 2:02).

Yes, you heard him right. He said, “To say that marijuana, or THC, or cannabidiol has no medicinal value, I think, is just immoral.”

And yet, now he leads the charge to decrease the amount of THC permitted by people who hold a Georgia cannabis card? It’s not enough that the Governor has used the Senate to block cultivation and families have to travel out-of-state to get the higher THC products, now he wants to take away their rights to possess and use it in the state of Georgia?

Sebastien Cotte is father to Jagger who has mitochondrial disease, and Sebastien has been a huge advocate from the start. He has already been down to the Gold Dome and here is part of his Facebook post about his first day of advocacy in 2017. This was his account of a conversation he had with Watson.

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Ummm… Georgia has an opioid epidemic going on. Are you being serious right now, Senator?

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Oh, by the way, the Georgia senate has also passed a law limiting the number of opioid treatment clinics while they set up a committee to investigate why Georgia has the largest number of clinics in the region.

Katie McKoy, a fellow special needs mom of three, dug these up for me within five minutes of my posting on Facebook about Sebastien’s conversation. Let’s stroll down memory lane and remember when we had Watson’s support.

http://news.wabe.org/post/doctors-can-sign-patients-medical-marijuana-registry

https://www.savannahbusinessjournal.com/news-categories/featured-columnists/4746-apr-21-columnist-state-senator-ben-watson-state-house-report-wrap-up.html

http://gareport.com/story/2015/03/24/senate-passes-medical-marijuana-bill/

So what changed? He supported us in the House of Representatives, where the powers that be are behind us. But then he moves to the Senate, where Casey Cagle and Renee Unterman routinely try to stick it to sick people, likely at the behest of Governor Nathan Deal (who has proven that he’s only interested in photo ops with sick kids, not actually helping them) and suddenly he’s taking the lead on moving Georgia’s very limited program backward.

Five out of six of the senators who signed as sponsors of this new bill previously voted to pass our current (thoroughly gutted by the senate and governor) medical cannabis bill. Why wasn’t that gut job enough? Now that Rep. Allen Peake is introducing two new bills, one to expand the protected medical conditions, and another to put medical cannabis on the ballot for citizens to decide, I guess the senate needed leverage to shut those down. It’s sick. Nothing but games for these elected individuals. And FYI, whereas Peake’s bill adds several medical conditions to be permitted cannabis use, the senate is only adding autism.

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The sponsors of SB 16 are:

Ben Watson (R, Savannah, District 1)  404-656-7880    ben.watson@senate.ga.gov

Renee Unterman (R, Buford, District 45)  404-463-1368  renee.unterman@senate.ga.gov   (Votes in favor, just tries to strangle it behind the scenes).

In 2014, she admitted to WSB’s Lori Geary she was holding the bill hostage until her bill was heard.She also said, “These parents don’t understand how the General Assembly works but this building is nothing but politics.”

Francis Millar (R, Dunwoody, District 40) 404-463-2260  francis.millar@senate.ga.gov

2014:

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2016:

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Greg Kirk (R, Americus, District 13)  404-463-5258   greg.kirk@senate.ga.gov  (When in-state cultivation was proposed said he wasn’t sure we should go down that road).

Nan Orrock (D, Atlanta, District 36)  404-463-8054  nan.orrock@senate.ga.gov (Has been vocally supportive on the floor, so I’m not sure why she’s co-sponsoring this).

Chuck Hufstetler  (R, Rome, District 52)  404-656-0034  chuck.hufstetler@senate.ga.gov  (Hufstetler is the only sponsor who has never voted in favor of medical cannabis. He likens Colorado to the “Wild West.” He’d feel better if the FDA approved it — the same FDA that approved pure hydrocodone, an opioid five to 10 times the strength of Vicodin).

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Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission Votes Against Recommending In-State Cultivation

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet. For some background you can read this if you need it. Today the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission met to decide on the final recommendations for the state and the medical cannabis program. The vote was 11-5 against recommending in-state cultivation, which would keep medicine more affordable for patients and not force them to break federal law obtaining meds.

A recent poll found that 84 percent of Georgians support expansion of the law and in-state grow.12309486_10153181418405496_6836359295388926619_o

This is the breakdown of the vote. Please note which side most of the doctors are on versus lackeys for Governor Deal, who plans to block expansion.

Yes: 
Rep. Allen Peake
Dr. Mandy Reece (pharmacist)
Dr. Cynthia Wetmore (oncologist and head of research for Emory and Children’s Healthcare)
Dr. Yong Park (pediatric neurologist)
Dr. Mark Murphy (gastroenterologist)
No: 
Dr. Alice House (head of state medical board)
Brian Rickman (district attorney who was recent appointed judge by Gov Deal)
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald (commissioner of dept of public health)
Senator Butch Miller (floor leader for Gov Deal)
Rep. Katie Dempsey (Rome)
Ryan Teague (exec counsel to Gov Deal)
Chief Stacey Cotton (police)
Sheriff Gary Gulledge
Rick Allen (Director of GA Drugs and Narcotics)
Vernon Keenan (head of GBI)
Gary Black via proxy vote (commissioner of agriculture).

I’d also like to thank Pastor Mike Griffin, head of the Georgia Baptist Convention who spoke at the hearing and said that although he has prayed with families who need this healing, it should not be passed. Basically his fear of recreational use (which is not on the table) is more important than the welfare of sick people. He can be reached at mgriffin@gabaptist.org.

Yep. Legislators and law enforcement are apparently more suited to making medical decisions than doctors and patients.  Read it and weep, Georgia. No seriously, you should weep. This state has serious issues.

They used the federal government as an excuse. Georgia. Does Georgia have a track record of bowing to the federal government? Apparently, only when it suits them.

There will still be legislation introduced to try and expand the program to include more conditions and cultivation, but overcoming dirty Georgia politics to make it happen is not going to be easy.

Governor Nathan Deal
Phone: 404-656-1776
Email: georgia.governor@gov.state.ga.us

Find your state representatives here:

http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

Governor Deal plans to block medical cannabis expansion.

I’m experiencing a serious feeling of deja vu. Except last year Governor Nathan Deal waited until after Christmas to drop the bomb on the sick and suffering of Georgia, along with their families. Happy holidays, citizens. You don’t matter.

Let’s do a brief recap. In early 2014, a parent lobby rose up, with the help of Rep. Allen Peake of Macon, to try and pass HB 885/Haleigh’s Hope Act to help people with epilepsy access cannabis oil. It was a very limited law, but by the time it hit the floor on the final day of session, it had been whittled down to nothing but immunity for possession of the oil. Political games were played, namely by Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (who has his sights set on the Governor’s seat), and the bill died, much to the devastation of the families. As the clock ticked toward midnight, several families ran to Deal’s office to beg him to intervene, to demand that the bill get a vote. He wouldn’t come out of his office. More families moved to Colorado in desperation. And three children I knew through this effort would pass away as the fight continued.

Over the course of the year, Peake led a commission to explore the idea further and how to make it work in Georgia. They concluded in December of 2014. Everyone was excited at the prospect of a bill that would include more conditions and allow a higher ratio of THC to CBD  (necessary for many people for whom CBD alone doesn’t cut it). It was also supposed to allow cultivation and growth in the state of Georgia as bringing it over state lines is federally illegal. Before the session even started, Deal made it clear growing was off the table. It was another devastating blow, however, HB 1 did pass with several eligible conditions. Residents could apply for a card that allowed them to possess cannabis oil with up to 5 percent THC.

Let me quickly say, I am for full medical marijuana. Legislators should not be able to dictate what conditions or stages of disease are eligible. They are NOT doctors, except in rare instances. But this is the sad hand we are dealt in Georgia. Too many elected officials that think it is their job to parent rather than represent the will of the people, who are largely in favor of medical cannabis. The goal for 2016 was to hopefully expand conditions and allow growing so that federal law doesn’t have to be broken to obtain it.

The signing of HB1 in 2015 was quite the production with the Governor’s office. He even shed (crocodile) tears as he signed the bill to help the families his staff strategically placed around him for the camera op. It was a performance worthy of an Academy Award.

Over the course of the past year, taxpayers have sponsored another committee to explore options for growing in Georgia. They have not completed their work or presented the final findings to Deal, however, yesterday he came out and said he will not support growing in 2016 either, even though the whole point of the committee he appointed was to make that happen.

He says law enforcement doesn’t want it. Well, last time I checked, that isn’t the branch of government that writes the laws.

He also says that the 300 people who have registered aren’t enough to be worth the cost of the program. Hear that, fellow card holders? Our loved ones aren’t worth it. He fails to recognize that many people can’t register because the restricted legislation doesn’t include their conditions, or if it does, they have to be end stage (yeah, you aren’t dying enough yet), and many need more THC than is allowed by the current law. Several patients are also encountering the issue of their doctor refusing to sign off simply because they oppose the idea or lack education about how it can benefit various conditions.

I find it funny that he considers the cost/benefit ratio not good enough to have in-state grow, but he supported pharmaceutical trials that cost the state an extraordinary amount of money, and have taken forever to benefit anyone at all.

He never intended to listen to either committee. But he was happy to waste your tax money putting on a show of fake compassion.

There are two things I really hate about epilepsy. The first is obviously what it has done and continues to do to my child, even though he has shown extraordinary improvement on CBD oil.

The second is how it has left me feeling about my state and my country. Getting involved in corrupt politics has been so incredibly disheartening. I was happier in the dark, but there is no going back. I just hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a majority that can override Deal’s veto. But that road looks a lot like a Georgia road in an episode of The Walking Dead. We need everyone to speak up. Please call and email your state senators, representatives and, of course, the governor. Let him know you are tired of him ignoring the will of the people.

This site will help you find out who your state officials are:

http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

Governor Deal, this is just one the many faces you are hurting. Look at him. He is a person. He is a Georgia resident. He is loved. Now do your job.

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For more on what happened last year, read this.

 

 

 

Georgia Rally for In-State Cultivation of Medical Cannabis

As I previously posted, Gov. Deal stripped HB1 of the growing option, leaving it as immunity only. There will be a rally at the Capitol tomorrow to demonstrate the support for in-state growing. Please attend to show your support.

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There are currently 17 medical conditions included in the bill. However, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and District Attorneys’ Association do not support the expansion to other diagnoses beyond epilepsy. Please contact your local sheriff and DA.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Deal. Real. Before pharmaceutical companies I kneel.

Nathan-DealThere is a very misleading headline floating around that the governor is supporting a bill for medical cannabis. It is not true. Yesterday Governor Nathan Deal dropped the bomb that he will veto a medical cannabis bill with in-state growing. He will, however, sign off on HB1 immediately if it is stripped to immunity only. What this means is that he wants sick people to travel to legal states, obtain cannabis oil that falls within the parameters described in HB1, and break federal law to bring it home. This is what he considers helping the people. Frankly, I’m impressed his hand isn’t too cramped up to sign any bills with all the patting he’s been doing on his own back for talking to GW Pharma about Epidiolex trials, the pharmaceutical version of CBD from the cannabis plant. (Isn’t it funny how pharmaceutical companies can find a medicinal use for a plant that is classified by the government as having none?)

Here’s the thing. Last year Rep. Allen Peake presented HB 885, also known as Haleigh’s Hope for Haleigh Cox. It started out with a plan for growing but got stripped in committee. I won’t rehash the whole ordeal again, but by the end it was also just an immunity bill with no way for people to obtain cannabis in Georgia. It had the votes, but Senator Renee Unterman killed it by attaching another bill that she knew good and well the House wouldn’t hear. Several families were down at the Capitol as the clock counted down to midnight on the last day. They went to Deal’s office to beg him to intervene, but he refused to come out and meet with them. He has said to reporters since then that he has met with the families. Most of the families would love to know who those families were and when because we’ve been trying to figure it out. He could have encouraged an immunity bill through last year but he chose to hide in his office.

He has known all along that there was a plan and a need for growing in the state. By agreeing to immunity only, he is encouraging families to break federal law by transporting it back to Georgia. You can be charged if caught driving through an illegal state or by TSA when flying. Not to mention the expense and challenge of people with serious medical conditions needing to leave the state to obtain it.

Throughout the 2014 election he was asked where he stood. He was vague and always pointed to what a great job he was doing talking to GW Pharma about bringing Epidiolex trials to Georgia. He was quiet as Rep. Peake led a committee during the months between sessions to create the legislation for HB1. He waited until this past Friday to finally be straight about the fact that he has no interest in genuinely helping the people in Georgia that could benefit. For him to not veto HB1, it must be stripped. He claims to want to appoint a committee to look into growing in 2016. Well, what have you been doing for the past year, Gov. Deal? And if he didn’t think Peake’s committee was doing a suitable job, why didn’t he step in? Because that wasn’t the issue. Deal is playing a different game. Meanwhile, people are sick and dying and many aren’t finding relief from traditional pharmaceuticals.

Sen. Curt Thompson has also announced his plans for SB7. It is a more comprehensive plan that is well-received by those who want to see a medical marijuana program in Georgia, but it isn’t expected to have a shot given that it allows so much more than Georgia legislators are comfortable with and is being introduced by a Democrat in a good ole boy Republican legislature.

But what can we expect from Deal, a man who secretively met last year with Sheldon AdelsonAdelson funded 85 percent of the campaign against Amendment 2 in Florida, which would have brought a comprehensive medical marijuana plan to the Sunshine state had it passed. In an amusing twist, Las Vegas casino king Adelson’s other pet project, besides keeping sick people from having more options, is blocking online gambling because “Internet betting could harm children and other vulnerable people.”

The AJC recently conducted a poll that showed 84 percent of Georgians support medical cannabis.

Want to share your thoughts on this subject with Deal? Give his office a call at 404-656-1776.

 

Related reading:

Georgia’s Deal caught up in ethics controversy

Gov. Deal’s campaign pays his daughter-in-law’s firm $600k

 

 

Connor gets to join an Epidiolex trial!

We’ve been waiting months for confirmation that Connor can take part in a compassionate use trial for Epidiolex. His doctor was on board, but had to submit paperwork and jump hurdles due to the absurd schedule 1 classification by the DEA. Epidiolex is a marijuana-derived pharmaceutical. It contains CBD, and no THC. As we are still fighting for medical cannabis legislation here in Georgia, Chris and I desperately wanted this legal opportunity for Connor.

I actually cried when I got the confirmation. I had no idea how much of a weight this was on my shoulders until that moment because I hardly ever cry anymore. People who have known me for a long time might think, yeah right. I used to be Queen Crybaby, crying over the stupidest little things all the time. But now, on the rare occasions I do cry, it is still over something stupid — like the death of a favorite character on Walking Dead (and unlike some people who like to spoil things instantaneously on Facebook, I STILL won’t name names here for those who are playing catch up on Netflix–oops, veered off on a pet peeve tangent. Suffice to say, the instant someone croaks, you don’t need to flippin’ post it). But I never cry over important things that I probably should. Sometimes it kind of weirds me out and I wonder if something is wrong with me. At any rate, I knew tears were a sign of how important this is to me. As you can see, I may not be able to display emotion when it comes to Connor and TSC, but I’ll sob and punch you in the face over The Walking Dead.

Epidiolex trials are exceptionally difficult to get into, and I don’t know how we got so lucky. I know so many who have tried and haven’t been accepted. This also doesn’t change the need for legislation. Epidiolex is one formulation. It is not the same thing that kids like Charlotte Figi or Haleigh Cox are using out in Colorado. They are on whole plant strains of high-CBD, low-THC oils called Charlotte’s Web and Haleigh’s Hope. Some kids are benefitting from THCa. Others are supplementing with THC when the ratios in the oils don’t hit the spot for seizure control. And it will still be years before Epidiolex is available to the general public. What I’m saying is, Epidiolex isn’t one size fits all. But we hope it will fit Connor.

We aren’t sure on the start date yet. Before he can receive his first dose, he’s required to have a screening appointment. Being the holidays, the next available appointment isn’t until Jan. 6. I was rather dismayed by that as you must keep track of the seizures for a month after that appointment, and that meant he can’t start the med until February. But he happens to have a follow up appointment on the calendar already in early December. The study coordinator is looking into whether that slot will allow enough time for the screening. That would put him on the med by early January. Fingers crossed it’s sooner rather than later.

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Sleeping With Scorpions

It was a quiet, relaxing, long weekend in the North Georgia mountains minus the morning we  woke up with a couple of  surprise visitors in the room.

Chris was the first to drag himself out of bed and head to the bathroom. I heard him utter, “What is that?! Is that a scorpion?!” Haha. Chris is the boy who cried scorpion (and various other creepy crawlers) to scare me so I just said, “Yeah, right.” He continued to insist there was something in the bathtub, so I got up to look. I didn’t even make it to the door because right there in my path:

Okay, technically this is the one in the tub, but you get the idea.
Okay, technically this is the one in the tub, but you get the idea.

Yes, right in the exact precise path I had used three times in the nearly pitch dark to use the bathroom throughout the night (I blame wine and my 30s). Thank God for my $2 Target flip flops. Sometime during the night a couple of scorpions showed up to party. I don’t CARE that the Internet insists Georgia scorpions aren’t deadly. There are certain things that should never be in a bedroom and scorpions are on the list, right after porcelain dolls and Robert Pattinson (sorry, I just don’t see it). I ended up discovering a couple dead scorpions between my nightstand and bed as well. So began the panicked gathering of items — including one toddler — and move from the bottom floor (selected for misguided idea that Connor might go to bed first ) to the top/third floor.  A hefty climb for such creatures (I choose to believe). We then went through everything in our bags to ensure we had not picked up any stowaways. Chris, for perhaps the first time ever, had not completely repacked and closed his bag, something I always make fun of him for doing every night on any vacation anywhere in the world. He says he likes to be prepared for escape Jason Bourne-style. He claimed he skipped it this time because I always make fun of him, and now here he was checking for scorpions as a result of my ridicule.

But other than that little adventure with wildlife, it was a relaxing trip. I even managed to read an entire book in about a day and a half — something that I used to be able to do all the time, but can barely get through a chapter most of the time these days. I couldn’t believe how fast I tore through this book. I felt like my increasingly dysfunctional brain had woken up in the fresh mountain air. Okay, so it turned out at the end that I had downloaded a Young Adult novel. I knew it had won awards and was also being banned in several places, cementing my desire to read it. I just didn’t realize the places it was being banned were American school libraries. At any rate, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was pretty good.

I also discovered that Connor, who loves taking baths at home, isn’t down with large Jacuzzi-style tubs. He flipped out and refused to even let me set him down in it, so I had to bathe him in the sink as the regular tub was now hosting a scorpion.

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Connor has really been making great progress lately. Some of the awesome things we’ve seen lately:

He’s very quick to respond to requests more frequently, like “let’s go upstairs,” “time to eat” or “show me______.”

He was able to squat down perfectly, pick up book and stand back up without any support from furniture.

He watched me demonstrate his bowling set and immediately helped me set the pins back up after ONE DEMONSTRATION!

He had taken his bib and put it on the couch. When I told him to come eat, he actually stopped, picked up the bib and brought it with him!

We are still waiting to hear from GW about including him in the Epidiolex trial. Argh. It’s been a month since additional paperwork was submitted.

 

Side note: I’ve previously posted about Accredo Pharmacy (Express Scripts) issues. A couple readers have contacted me about their ongoing issues and have subsequently started an FB group and petition. Please check out those links if you are a dissatisfied patient. While I do believe there are some employees working to help the situation, it appears they are the minority and way too many people are still fighting for their prescriptions. The change isn’t coming fast enough for people who are very sick and depend on these meds. If you are experiencing issues, please e-mail Jennifer Luddy at ExpressRxHelp@express-scripts.com