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Oops! Georgia Lawmakers Almost Voted on Delta 8 Bill by Accident

Georgian lawmakers learned a vital civic lesson early this month. Know what your vote is on.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the details on an amusing story out of the Peach State General Assembly, where cannabis reform has been a hot topic during this year’s legislative session.

It all started with a bipartisan bill designed to “help cannabis farmers with a bill allowing more hemp products in a state where marijuana remains illegal” brought by what the newspaper described as an “unlikely Senate duo — a conservative South Georgia farmer running for higher office and a liberal Atlanta preacher”: Republican state Sen. Tyler Harper and his Democratic colleague, state Sen. Kim Jackson.

According to the bill Journal-Constitution, “started as a proposal to allow hemp farming by Georgians who are currently barred because they had been convicted of a felony,” and would have “allowed hemp farming licenses to be issued to individuals as long as they haven’t been convicted of a felony related to a federally controlled substance within the previous 10 years.”

But after that bill cleared a state Senate committee, Harper brought forward a substitute bill that included the following language: “Hemp products shall not be considered controlled substances due to the presence of hemp or hemp derived cannabinoids.”

According to the newspaper, this would have legalized Delta 8 THC. This compound gives users a similar high as standard cannabis. It has gained popularity after Congress legalized hemp cultivation in 2018.

The bill was passed by the committee before being brought to the floor of Georgia’s state Senate. However, some lawmakers were not happy with the situation and returned the legislation back to the committee.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “Agriculture Chairman Larry Walker said he had voted for it in the Rules Committee ‘not understanding everything that’s in the bill.’”

“That’s on me. It slipped by me,” said Walker, as quoted by the newspaper.

What the mishap does underscore is just how focused Georgia lawmakers have been on cannabis-related bills as of late –– specifically the state’s troubled medical cannabis program.

Georgia approved medical cannabis in 2015. However, it was only legal in Georgia for THC oil. Even worse, the Georgia legislature has already legalized medical cannabis treatment in 2015 but only as THC oil. Journal-Constitution put it last month, “state law has allowed registered patients in Georgia to use medical marijuana oil, but they still have no legal way to buy it here.” That’s been a massive source of frustration for the roughly thousands of patients currently registered in the program, who have been forced to obtain cannabis products in other states or via the illicit market.

The February bill, which seeks to dramatically open the program and increase the number of state medical marijuana licenses from 6 to 22, was introduced. The bill, which would allow the licensing of medical cannabis businesses to commence within one year after they are granted, will be passed by the Senate in February.

Six years ago, medical marijuana was legalized in California. The six first companies to be selected were chosen last July. In late 2020, the state opened its doors to potential cannabis producers.

Georgia’s state Senate and House voted on a number of bills to give life to the often-delayed program. This includes legislation that will relaunch the licensing process.

“The sole purpose of the bill is to move the ball forward on getting medical cannabis to the folks on the registry,” state Sen. Dean Burke said regarding the bills. “The process, most people would say, has been flawed.”