A mother’s love vs. Georgia’s “reefer madness”

Here at Georgia CARE, we love to share stories of people who are making a difference in the fight to legalize cannabis for medicine. Mothers and fathers all over Georgia are risking their freedom to help improve the lives of their children with cannabis oil.

As we go through the legislative process many have come forward to share the most personal aspects of their lives in an effort to educate lawmakers about the miracle medicine we call CANNABIS.

Bridgett Liquori is an outlaw, not that you’d know from looking at her. This petite 34-year-old single mother’s crime? She loves her children and is risking everything to keep them as happy, safe and healthy as possible.

If that means breaking  state and federal laws to get the medical cannabis her kids need to treat their daunting illnesses, then so be it.

“I never thought I’d be a marijuana activist,” says the self-described “Canna Mom” from Gwinnett County. “But this is about my kids so I really didn’t have much choice.”

“Canna Mom” Bridgett Liquori of Buford with children Jackson (center), William (left), Lillyauhna (right) and Giovanni (rear) at the Wylde Center in Oakhurst.

Liquori is part of grassroots movement devoted to reforming Georgia’s restrictive and nonsensical medical cannabis laws. In between taking care of her kids, Liquori spends time testifying at the state capitol, working with pro-marijuana groups such as the Georgia CARE Project and writing her own blog about the benefits of medical cannabis. She’s also keeping a nervously watchful eye on how the newly minted Trump administration will handle the marijuana industry that’s growing like a weed nationwide.

A native of upstate New York, Liquori did not come by her marijuana activism easily.

“I was scared,” she said while watching her kids play at a park in Oakhurst on an unseasonably warm Saturday morning. “I was afraid of someone coming to my house and taking my kids away because I’m doing something illegal. Even though (medical cannabis) is beneficial and helpful to them, the fear was there. A lot of days it’s still there. I worry if someone is going to kick my door in.”

Georgia Marijuana Legislation 2015 – Three Bills Filed

georgia-legislatureReformers in Georgia have been lobbying for marijuana law reform for decades. But only in the past two years have activists seen a change in public attitude and growing support from lawmakers.

Georgia C.A.R.E. Project is busy building grassroots support and educating the public on the need for policy reform. With the help of position papers and face to face conversations, lawmakers have a better grasp of the issue and are seeking more information. In January 2014, a poll commissioned by Peachtree N.O.R.M.L. of 800 likely Georgia voters showed 62% support decriminalization.

wmaz PeakeReformers got a huge boost in 2014 when State Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) unexpectedly took up the issue of medicinal cannabis and filed House Bill 885, a limited use bill that focused on CBD oil (Cannabidiol) for patients with epilepsy. The billed died on the final day of the session after Sen. Renee Unterman (R- Buford) attached HB-885 to another bill dealing with autism and insurance coverage. The bill (885) had been stripped down and only offered “immunity from prosecution”. The bill’s failure was a shock to political pundits and players due to the overwhelming support from the General Assembly.

With the session ended and no cannabis bill to consider, Gov. Nathan Deal ( R ) seized the opportunity during an election year to keep the issue rolling by announcing a partnership with GW Pharmaceutical to conduct limited trials on a CBD product called Epidiolex. Gov. Nathan Deal, Georgia Regents University and GW Pharmaceuticals signed a “memorandum of understanding” which could allow GRU in the company’s (GWP) clinical trials of a cannabidiol oil. It is estimated that the limited trials may cost taxpayers $8 million per year to conduct the studies.

A last minute resolution was added during the session establishing a joint study committee on medical cannabis. The hearings took place in Atlanta, Macon, Augusta and Gwinnett County. Various stakeholders were invited to testify including Georgia C.A.R.E director James Bell who spoke at the first hearing at the state capitol in September. Activists, patients, law enforcement, medical & business professionals were given time to speak. After a final hearing under the gold dome the committee disbanded without making a formal recommendation. This may have been due to the fact that committee member Sen. Curt Thompson pre-filed a medical cannabis bill (SB-7) considered to be comprehensive, broader and includes whole plant medicine and personal cultivation.

Sen Thompson News 2Sen. Thompson also filed a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment (SB-6) to be voted on by the public. These bills have changed the direction of the marijuana law reform debate in Georgia.

On November 17, 20014 Rep. Allen Peake was first in line to pre-filed House Bill 1 for the 2015 session. The bill was filed as a placeholder for the HB-1 designation. Peake has not filed the details of HB-1. Peake hopes to have the draft ready by the start of the legislative session which begins January 12. He is promising a bill with an expanded list of medical conditions – no whole plant medicine or smoking of the cannabis flowers – the issue of allowing vaporization is still begin debated. The arbitrary number of 3 to 5 percent THC is being considered – No indication if the percentage is applicable to the plant content and/or prepared compounds.

Let’s take a look at the bills:

Pre-filed Bills for 2015 Legislative Session

House Bill – 1: Filed by Rep. Allen Peake – A BILL to be entitled “Haleigh’s Hope Act” to amend Chapter 34 of Title 43 -121 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.

This bill amends the original medical marijuana act (Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Act) that allowed a smokable form of cannabis for cancer treatment therapy (nausea / appetite stimulant) and eye pressure reduction for patients with glaucoma. Details of the bill have not been filed or released. Release is expected by January 12, 2015, the start of the session. www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20152016/HB/1

Our Recommendation: Watch – We will continue to watch the progress of this bill and will offer a summary. We can not make a recommendation of support or opposition until the bill has been filed.

Senate Bill – 7: Filed by Sen. Curt Thompson – A BILL to be entitled “Controlled Substances Therapeutic Relief Act” also amends Chapter 34 of Title 43 of the O.C.G.A.

SB-7, would allow doctors to “prescribe” (recommend) marijuana of up to two ounces for specific debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Chrone’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and the chronic or debilitating condition that cause Cachexia (wasting syndrome), severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, and seizures/muscle spasms from epilepsy or multiple sclerosis.
SB -7 also includes a number of common-sense limitations and guardrails for dispensing the drug. Marijuana, like any other prescription drug, would be regulated. The bill would allow for whole plant and compound extracts. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20152016/SB/7

Our Recommendation: Support – We support legislation that allows whole plant medicine, cultivation, smoking and other appropriate delivery methods for a broad list of medical conditions. We believe SB-7 will establish the best approach to providing cannabis to those in need in a manor that enhances public safety.

Senate Resolution- 6: Filed by Sen. Curt Thompson – A RESOLUTION proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Georgia so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by law for the legalization and regulation of marijuana; to permit persons 21 years of age or older to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use; to provide that the fees and tax proceeds from the sale of such marijuana be dedicated equally between education and transportation infrastructure purposes; to provide that such funds shall not lapse; to provide for submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection;

This resolution would call a vote by Georgia voters (YES or NO) to amended the state constitution to allow the legalization of marijuana (cannabis) for personal use, commerce and taxation. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20152016/SR/6

Our Recommendation: Support – We believe citizens (21+) have the right to possess and use marijuana in a responsible manor without interference from our government. Marijuana is not a crime and responsible citizens should not be treated as criminals.

Georgia Sen. Renee Unterman Kills Medical Marijuana Bill HB-722

AJC – A bill that would expand the list of medical conditions that could be treated on Georgia’s medical marijuana law has stalled in committee, after Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said Monday that she will not schedule a hearing on it before the Legislature ends work March 24.

House Bill 722 would have added HIV/AIDS, epidermolysis bullosa, post-traumatic stress disorder, Tourette’s syndrome and other disorders and illnesses to the list of qualifying medical conditions eligible for the state’s cannabis oil program, which became legal last year.

Unterman said she felt the push to expand the list needed more work and discussion than time would allow during the session.

“I met with some of the families and I’ve committed to continue working on it with them, and that’s what I told them,” Unterman said. When asked if she expected to schedule a hearing, she said: “No, it’s not coming up.”