LaGrange father makes “heart-wrenching” decision on cannabis oil bill
LaGRANGE — For Dale Jackson, the 2016 Georgia legislative season boiled down to 10 seconds of prayer and one heart-wrenching decision.
Jackson could ask Senators to help his son try potentially life-altering cannabis oil, but in exchange reduce the potency of the drugs approved in 2015’s HB1, affecting hundreds of people already on the medical marijuana registry.
The modified bill would add autism to the state’s medical marijuana registry and allow his son, Colin, 7, to legally use cannabis oil, but reduce the amount of THC — tetrahydrocannabidoil — from 5 percent to 3 percent. Jackson said THC is considered the “miracle worker” within the cannabis oil that allegedly helps with a host of symptoms from alleviating pain to stopping seizures.
For him, the decision was clear — though it came at the expense of his son and countless other children who also suffer from autism.
“While I am not an officially elected representative, at that moment I knew it was the right way to vote,” he said. “Regardless of how much it hurt, I am confident I advised them to vote the right way, even if today my son is the collateral damage.”
Jackson and his family have already seen the positive effects medical marijuana has on their son. They have been giving Colin cannabis oil since March 3, with Jackson citing a language loophole written in a 1980s state code.
The family hoped it would become a permanent and legal routine for Colin after the Georgia legislative session ended on March 24. Their hopes were dashed with eight minutes to spare.
Jackson said the 2016 bill — originally HB722 — was an uphill battle from the beginning.
The original intent behind the bill was to provide medical marijuana cultivation labs in Georgia and add several more disorders to the registry, Jackson stated. HB722 was gutted the first week on the House floor — cultivation labs and many disorders were stripped out of the bill.
It passed in the House of Representatives, but never made it out of the Senate’s health and human services committee, said Jackson. Meaning it could not be voted on this legislative session.
Jackson said he and Rep. Allen Peake (R- Macon) found a way around the issue. They took an old bill of Sen. Josh McKoon’s (R-Columbus), SB145, and with his approval, replaced it with the language of HB722.
According to Jackson, SB145 had already passed the Senate in 2015 and was up for a vote in the House this year.
That vote came on the last day of the legislative session, March 24. The bill passed the House and moved on to the Senate for a final vote just before the dinner break.
Jackson said he and some of the parents pushing for the passage of SB145 took the opportunity to re-approach Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in his office.
After being turned away by Cagle’s scheduler earlier in the day, Jackson said he was prepared to camp out in the Lt. Governor’s office until he had a face-to-face meeting with the second in command of the state of Georgia.
“I just wanted to show him the picture of Colin and me, and how his face has lit up since he started taking cannabis oil,” said Jackson. “All I wanted was two minutes.”
Cagle eventually met with Jackson and the parents.
“We told him … if anything got passed, it (the bill) was going to include autism,” Jackson explained. “That was not something we were willing to compromise. He assured us he was willing to work with us.
“We left there and felt very positive … we filled the senators in on what has just happened. They seemed optimistic something would get done,” he added.
But Jackson said all that changed around 9 p.m. that day, when rumors of an “exchange” started floating around the Senate floor.
See part two in Wednesday’s edition to read how Jackson became the deciding factor on whether the bill would pass the Senate, and why he asked legislators to vote “no” at the expense of his son.