Georgia’s Black Caucus Pushing for More Diversity On Medical Marijuana Panel

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    Medical marijuana can be a controversial enough subject, but in Georgia the added element of race is making things that much more dicey. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus ran a series of hearings starting near the end of October to address new policy recommendations for the state’s new Commission on Medical Cannabis, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    “The governor put together a commission but that commission was not inclusive of all of Georgia,” said state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, D-Lithonia.

    Despite the fact that three of every 10 Georgians are black, the panel consists of zero black representation.

    “We thought it was ironic there were no African Americans on the panel,” Dawkins-Haigler said. “That is a large number of people here in the state of Georgia.”

    Dawkins-Haigler also stated that representation was important for everyone, saying, “Many people suffer from chronic diseases. We want to make sure we reach out to our community. It’s very important we’re included.”

    Georgia officially approved the use of medicinal cannabis oil use in limited forms for the first time earlier this year. It was only approved for people suffering from severe forms of eight specific illnesses, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and epilepsy.

    The active African-American contingent already secured a victory on this front when they successfully petitioned lawmakers to include sickle cell disease on the list.

    Even though 69% of Americans now believe alcohol is more harmful than marijuana use, Georgia is reluctant to allow anything more than oils for treatment. Along with studying the effects and results of the state’s new marijuana laws, the commission was formed to examine whether or not the legislation should be expanded to allow farmers and harvesters to grow and distribute cannabis oil in the state.

    Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who is leading the Commission on Medical Cannabis, recognizes the concern for more diversity on the panel but also sees it as an all encompassing issue.

    “The goal is to help hurting Georgians, whether black or white, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, have access to a safe and effective medical cannabis product,” Peake said.