“For the times they are a-changin’ ”
-- Bob Dylan
If someone had said in the late fall of 2013 that the Georgia General Assembly would come within a hair of passing a bill allowing medical marijuana, the laughter would have been heard from the Gold Dome to Stone Mountain. Even the sculptures of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson would’ve chuckled.
But there are no echoes of laughter now. They were erased by the faces of children wracked with seizures and pain. Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, was House Bill 885’s unlikely sponsor and champion. A Republican acolyte and rising star in the House ranks, Peake made medical marijuana his mission, even though some of his colleagues thought he was tilting at windmills and was as crazy as Don Quixote to even try. And while the bill was felled -- not because of ideology or opposition (House Bill 885 passed the House 171-4 and 54-0 in the Senate) -- it could not overcome the politics. It became entangled in a ploy with an unrelated autism bill in the state Senate. Both the medical marijuana effort and “Ava’s Law,” that would have required insurance companies to provide autism coverage, went down in defeat.
But in a move that was spurred by a mixture of compassion and election year politics, Gov. Nathan Deal has decided to sidestep the legislative process. While he will get some comparisons with President Barack Obama’s vow to do the same thing in Washington, D.C., on this particular issue, as a leader, he has to do what is in his power to do. Deal wants at Georgia Regents University to expand clinical trials of medical marijuana and its use as treatment for pediatric epilepsy. The trials would focus on severe cases such as Haleigh Cox’s. Haleigh suffered hundreds of seizures daily before moving to Colorado with her mother. There she could get the cannabidiol treatments legally. Haleigh’s seizures have decreased to one or two a day, and she’s starting to speak for the first time.
While the time frame is unknown for the trials and it is likely impacted families will continue to leave the state in the meantime, the governor has done what is in his power to do. Dylan’s song should ring in the ears of lawmakers intent on playing politics with the lives of children.
“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”