March 10, 2017 Radio Commentary

Marijuana Bills Alive in Georgia: The Hemp Connection

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, March 10, 2017 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Four marijuana bills were introduced this session. S.B. 16 to lower the THC level of marijuana to three percent and add autism to the treatment list passed the Senate 41-12 February 16th and is in the House. H.B. 65 passed the House 156-6 March 1st and is in the Senate.

H.B. 65 weakens the current THC Oil Patient Registry law by (a) deleting the one-year state residency requirement; (b) deleting physicians’ reports on dosage, clinical and treatment response, and side effects; and (c) building demand for medical marijuana (d) by adding eight more eligible diseases, making a total of 16 conditions eligible for treatment.

H.R. 36 is a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing medical cannabis (marijuana) and in-state cultivation and sale of marijuana. As a constitutional amendment, two-thirds vote is required in both House and Senate; and, if they pass it, it would be on the November 2018 ballot for ratification. Therefore, proponents may linger until next session to get it passed.H.B. 465 is connected to the marijuana issue, also. It creates an Industrial Hemp Commission for farmers, retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers who are interested in cultivating marijuana hemp. The Commission would be expected to find ways to put Georgia in the forefront of home-grown hemp and hemp seed production for the world market.

But there are problems with growing hemp in Georgia. (a) Hemp marijuana is marijuana with low THC, the hallucinogenic chemical that is the principal and most active ingredient in marijuana. (b) There is no certified marijuana seed to guarantee the three-tenths of one-percent or lower THC level required to produce hemp. (c) High THC level marijuana may be an inadvertent result, when hemp farmers expect to harvest marijuana with hemp-level THC.

Add to that these facts: Although hemp farming is federally illegal, President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill allowing state-registered universities and agriculture departments to cultivate hemp. H.B. 465 might be amended onto a marijuana bill. If so, Georgia could be on the brink of farming hemp marijuana that contains very high levels of THC that could be used for recreational purposes.

Review: The difference in hemp and other marijuana plants is the tetrohydrocannabinol (THC) level. There is no viable hemp seed available and none has been documented or legally imported in decades, evidently, for very good reasons. Maybe, former generations learned some lessons this generation should heed. Call Representative Golick, at 404 656-5943* and ask him to keep the marijuana bills, including the hemp bill, in his committee. Call Senator Unterman at 404 463-1368* and ask her to keep H.B. 65 in committee. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.