Republican Rep. Allen Peake celebrates last year with families whose loved ones suffer seizures after the Georgia Senate passed his cannabis oil bill. Peake is behind a new Georgia medical marijuana bill expanding immunity for patients. (Associated Press file)

Georgia lawmaker scores with revival of his medical marijuana bill

ATLANTA — A push to expand the number of people allowed to possess medical marijuana in Georgia got new life Tuesday after a Republican lawmaker’s original proposal stalled in the state Senate.

Republican Rep. Allen Peake of Macon gutted an unrelated Senate bill already approved by that chamber and replaced it with his proposal extending immunity for possessing medical cannabis oil to patients with autism, HIV or AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder and several other conditions.

A House committee approved the new Georgia medical marijuana bill Tuesday afternoon, sending it to the Rules committee, which decides when measures receive a floor vote.

“We live to fight another day,” Peake said. “This gives more citizens who have debilitating illness an option. The question becomes: ‘Why wouldn’t we do this?'”

The House last month passed Peake’s original bill, 152 votes to 8. But it stalled when it reached the Senate. State Sen. Renee Unterman, a Buford Republican who chairs her chamber’s Health and Human Services committee, said this week that there wasn’t time to hold a hearing on the bill before lawmakers adjourn next week.

Peake’s parliamentary move would allow the House to hold a floor vote, sending the bill back to the Senate for agreement and bypass Unterman’s committee. But there are no guarantees in the hectic final days of the 40-day legislative session.

Lawmakers last year approved Georgia medical marijuana legislation allowing people with certain medical conditions and a doctor’s approval to legally possess cannabis oil after registering with the state. Patients say they still must travel to states where the product can be manufactured.

Peake originally hoped to pass legislation allowing state-licensed manufacturers of medical marijuana to operate in Georgia. But opposition in the House and from Gov. Nathan Deal forced changes.