Tag Archives: Georgia politics

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 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!

HB885 — the Georgia medical cannabis bill — died tonight.

And when it died, this is what it looked like.

1461321_10203535527814157_581029929_n-1Glad I couldn’t make it down there today. I wouldn’t have wanted to watch this celebration in person. I’m so sorry for those parents that did have to see it live. A  live stream was more than enough for me. I cannot begin to express the countless hours, time and money (parking, travel, childcare) that these parents put into this. Representative Allen Peake did everything he could and for that we are thankful.

Short version — most of which I stole from someone on Facebook — because I’m tired, ticked off and feeling a migraine coming on:

The Senate refused to pass HB 885 unless an autism insurance bill was attached because the House refuses to vote on the autism bill alone. Senate passed HB885 with the autism bill attached, then sent to the House who refused to vote on it with the attached autism bill. 

Then late tonight, with HB 885 stalled in the House, the House sent SB291 (already passed in the Senate and unrelated to HB 885) to the Senate for a vote with the HB 885 language included. Senate refused to vote on SB 291 because it did not have the desired autism language.

And with that, the state of Georgia made it clear that it does not care about kids whether they have epilepsy or autism. But they do care about their end of the night paper party!

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