State Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler says once she looked at the faces of children struggling with chronic seizures and meeting parents who were in tears, she knew that HB 885, known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act” to provide marijuana for medicinal use, must pass. Cannabis can be given orally a liquid or pill or administered by injections to provide relief to patients who suffer from seizures.
“The parents pray for just one day without seizures for their children,” said Rep. Dawkins-Haigler, who serves District 91. “I’m really proud of this bill. It will allow the children with seizures to use medical marijuana legally. I wish we could have approached the bill more aggressively to add other conditions. That may happen at the Senate level. They may add conditions such as cancer or sickle cell.”
The Georgia House passed the bill on March 4 by a 171-4 majority on “Crossover Day,” the last possible day in this legislative session for a bill to be approved by either chamber. It now heads to the Georgia Senate.
The legislative session adjourns at the end of the month.
Rep. Dawkins-Haigler discussed the bill at a Town Hall meeting, which was held at the Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers on March 4 to give residents the latest news on happenings at the state capitol. About a dozen people attended the meeting.
Another controversial bill addressed at the meeting was HB 1023, which would give business owners the right to turn away a customer because of their religious views or sexual orientation.
“I’m glad this bill did not get out of the Senate. Other legislators may try to bring it back, but if you shut out customers because of their religion or sexual preference, you shut out tons of potential business and discourage others from moving to our state,” said Haigler. “Georgia has the reputation of being the No. 1 place to do business. If we were to pass a bill like that, it would hurt our reputation.”
Haigler discussed about 10 bills at the community meeting, but another one that stood out was HB 772, which requires anyone receiving public assistance in the form of food stamps, to be submitted to drug testing. The bill still must go before the Senate.
“There was a lot of debate around this bill. It includes the disabled, veterans, senior citizens recently unemployed and recent divorcees. People who take the drug test would be required to pay for it themselves,” said Haigler. “The funny thing about it is when you apply for those services, you can do it online. The bill just means that if you visit the office and they suspect that you may be using drugs, you will be required to take the drug test. Florida tried it a couple of years ago and they lost a lot of money in the courts.”
Sen. Ronald Ramsey, who represents parts of DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton counties, also gave his input at the Town Hall meeting.
“This is a very condensed session. I believe a small number of bills were considered,” said Ramsey, covering parts of DeKalb, Rockdale and Newton counties. “We approved a mid-year budget of about $20.2 billion. One thing I’m happy about is as a result of that, we were able to restore $50,000 in funding to Rockdale Cares.”
Rockdale Cares provides services and activities to developmentally challenged citizens.
Conyers resident Stephen Albright said he was glad the state lawmakers provided the Town Hall meeting to keep the community abreast on the issues.
“I wish more people would have come out tonight. A wide range of subjects were covered,” said Albright. “A lot of people come out after the fact to state concerns, but these are the types of events we need to come out to in larger numbers.”