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Medical marijuana bill may be gaining support
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ATLANTA­ — What could become one of the General Assembly’s most controversial bills is generating quite a buzz — well before it hits the floor for a vote.

House Bill 885, sponsored by state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) and Rep. Dr. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), calls for further research into the medicinal value of cannabis for certain conditions and its use to treat cancer and glaucoma. If passed, the bill also would select academic medical centers to conduct the research.

The medical marijuana bill has been put in the hopper but not referred to a committee. A Senate version, Senate Resolution 756, asks for a study committee of medicinal marijuana for serious medical conditions. It was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week.

“I look forward to looking very closely at this bill,” said state Rep. Jon Burns.

Burns said there are people in the community who could benefit “by a medical product that has shown some excellent results as it deals with seizures in children and adults” and added that it would be allowed under very strict controls. Burns said he has had correspondence with several people in his district about allowing medical use of marijuana and marijuana products.

“I know several people it is applicable to in our community,” he said, “and they don’t want to have to move to Colorado to get their children treated. I hope we will take a good, close look at that and make sure it’s something that’s done responsibly that we can support.”

State Rep. Bill Hitchens (R-Rincon) said the Campus Carry Act, which generated controversy in last year’s session, and other weapons-carrying legislations will be coming back. The Campus Carry Act, HB 29, would have allowed students to have firearms on college and other postsecondary education institution campuses. Hitchens is a member of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, which heard that bill, along with the Constitutional Carry Act, the Firearms Freedom Act and a bill that would have allowed a school administrator to have a firearm within a designated school safety zone or school building.

“The thing that is going to arise again this year is Second Amendment issues, where you can carry your gun,” he said.

Hitchens said there was a lot of discussion on the Campus Carry Act, with nearly 16 hours of testimony in committee hearings.

“It was a lightning rod,” he said. “Even at the last hour, we thought it was going to pass. If I was the president of a university and responsible for all those young people, I don’t know that I would want them on my campus, either.”

None of the proposed weapons carry bills made it to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, and Hitchens said there may be other proposals this year. One such potential bill would allow guns to be carried into bars and other establishments, but only if the establishment agrees, and another would give school systems the opportunity to designate personnel to be trained and to carry a weapon.

Hitchens pointed out that the middle and high schools in Effingham County have school resource officers, all Effingham County Sheriff’s Office deputies, but the elementary schools do not.

“My daughter has been a teacher for many years,” he said, “and she appreciates the deputies when people come in and get unruly. When a deputy shows up, everything quiets down.”