Georgia's prosecutors let a state panel know Friday that they think a Macon lawmaker's plan to liberalize access to medical cannabis would cause trouble.
The bill by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would see the state license as many as six companies to grow, manufacture and distribute certain liquid cannabis compounds to people with a doctor's recommendation.
Chuck Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia, outlined ways he thinks House Bill 722 could set up new opportunities for law-breaking and marijuana abuse.
"This is the true concept of 'the fox is guarding the henhouse.' We are telling the people growing marijuana for profit that they need to track and control the plant from beginning to end," Spahos told the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee at the state Capitol.
Spahos said he understands that Peake is not talking about Colorado-style recreational marijuana. But Spahos also said he has talked to Colorado colleagues who are policing the marijuana growing in that state.
The "same problems exist. You've got a grow that has got to be regulated because if it's not well-regulated, the substance is going out the back door as fast as it's going out the front door. That's in fact what Colorado has seen over and over," Spahos said.
Among other criticisms, Spahos said he thinks the language of Peake's bill would allow people to take what's called "hash oil," a high-octane liquid rich in THC, the cannabis compound that causes a high.
His testimony bookended a week at the Capitol that started with criticisms from the Georgia Sheriffs' Association. Their representatives said they think the law could be abused by marijuana users and shady doctors.
Peake already has made some adjustments to his bill since the sheriffs' testimony, including prohibiting vaping as a medical marijuana delivery method. He said he wants to continue to work with law enforcement to address their concerns.
"I still believe we can come up with a proper regulatory structure that achieves the objective that we're trying to get to: provide medicine to hurting Georgians," Peake said.
Peake said he also thinks some law enforcement fears are unfounded and that a medical cannabis program is not going to attract people who simply want to get high.
"If someone wants marijuana to get high, they're going to go get it," he said. "Someone's not going to go through the difficult process of registering with the state, going to see their physician, having a consultation with a pharmacist, paying more than they would on the street, to get medicine."
Peake said he hopes to get a committee vote next week.
Time is getting short in this year's legislative session. The bill would need to pass the full House by the time the session is three-quarters over on Feb. 29 for a practical chance of becoming law this year.
To contact writer Maggie Lee, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.