The Latest: Lawmakers back medical marijuana production

April 3, 2019

ATLANTA (AP) — The Latest on the final day of Georgia’s 2019 legislative session (all times local):

12 a.m.

Georgia could soon allow the in-state production and sale of low-potency medical marijuana oil under legislation headed to the governor’s desk.

The compromise measure was passed by the state House and Senate late Tuesday.

It would fix an issue created by the state’s 2015 medical marijuana law that allows certain patients to possess the drug but provides them no legal avenue to obtain it.

The final bill grants six growing licenses to private companies — two for larger organizations and four for smaller organizations. That’s four more licenses than what the Senate had allocated and four less licenses than what the House had originally specified.

It gives pharmacies the “first shot” at distributing the drug but allows a state commission to seek out independent retail locations if there is a need.

Critics worried that the bill could be the “first step toward the commercialization of recreational marijuana.”


11:45 p.m.

Public schools in Georgia could soon need to receive a threat assessment every four years under school safety legislation passed by the General Assembly.

Passed late Tuesday, the legislation also says public schools must conduct yearly violence and terrorism response drills. It allows for a new position called “school safety coach” and creates an app with which students and others could report suspicious activity.

Republican Sen. John Albers said previously that the goal of the legislation is to identify problems before they happen. Albers said he spoke about the bill with parents from Parkland, Florida, where 17 high school students and staff were killed by a gunman in February 2018.

Critics worried that the legislation would criminalize behavioral issues that should be dealt with by the school.


9:05 p.m.

Law enforcement officials in Georgia could soon be required to preserve rape kits for a longer time under a bill approved by the state House.

The House unanimously approved the measure on Tuesday. The Senate approved it earlier in the day, and it now goes to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

Current law requires rape kits to be stored for 10 years. The proposal would require Georgia to preserve the evidence 30 years after the arrest date or seven years from the completion of a prison sentence, whichever occurs later. If there are no arrests, the kit must be stored for 50 years.

The bill’s author, Rep. Scott Holcomb, is an Atlanta Democrat and lawyer who said he’s prosecuted rape and sexual-assault crimes.

Holcomb was one of the main backers of a law passed in 2016 that helped cut down on the state’s backlog of rape kits.


3:10 p.m.

A bill raising Georgia’s minimum marriage age to 17 is headed to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk.

The legislation was given final approval by the state House on Tuesday, with a vote of 155-14.

Under current Georgia law, 16 year-olds can get married with parental permission.

Under the bill, a 17-year old that wanted to marry would have to be legally emancipated from their parents by a judge and undergo pre-marriage counselling. A 17-year old would also not be allowed to marry someone more than four years older.

Rep. Andy Welch, the bill’s author, has said he worried about young people making decisions that could affect the rest of their lives.


4:30 a.m.

The final day of Georgia’s 2019 legislative session has arrived.

Several major proposals have already been passed and sent to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. That includes one moving the state to new touchscreen voting machines that print a paper ballot and another that would ban almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

But there’s still plenty of legislation that could be considered on the last hectic day Tuesday.

That includes a bill that would allow in-state production of low-potency medical marijuana oil and another that would authorize a state takeover of Atlanta’s airport.

The airport is currently owned and operated by the city of Atlanta, and city officials strongly oppose a takeover. One recent version has the state taking an oversight role, rather than a full takeover.