EDITORIAL: A small victory in the midst of a huge defeat

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, has been working for three years to help children and adults with severe maladies get the help they need through the use of medical marijuana — a form of the plant that is too weak to create the high usually associated with the plant. Last year, Peake's measure passed that allowed people with one of eight conditions to register with the state and with a doctor's prescription get the drug called cannabidiol. There was only one catch. The drug was not available in Georgia. Those afflicted, or their parents, had to risk breaking a federal law by buying the drug in another state, such as Colorado, and bringing it back to Georgia. Peake sought to eliminate that risk with House Bill 722, which would have allowed the plant to be grown in Georgia by a limited number of growers.

Unfortunately, Gov. Nathan Deal didn't agree. While many of his colleagues in the House signed on to Peake's effort, others were afraid to buck the governor. The Georgia Sheriffs' Association also came out against growing marijuana here, who, along with Deal believe such a legal industry would not be secure.

That's an interesting take. Drugs, much stronger than marijuana are legally manufactured in Georgia without such security concerns even while opioid abuse runs rampant. And, if the state's sheriffs hadn't noticed, marijuana is being grown illegally in the state and sold on the streets of probably every city in the state. As far as concerns that legal growers would become cover operations for illegal trade, other states such as Minnesota have figured it out, why can't Georgia?

While the main part of Peake's idea is dead for this year, expanding the registry to include seven more diagnoses is still alive. It was approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, but still faces a Rules Committee vote and a vote of the full House before heading to the Senate. There may not be enough time in the session for it to leap those hurdles. Still, the fact remains, we are forcing ill people, or their caregivers, to cease being law abiding citizens and become criminals to ease their pain or that of a loved one. That's just not right.