Bills on Georgia medical marijuana, beer sales still in flux

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal delivers the State of the State address during the early days of this year’s state legislative session in Atlanta. With a deadline looming for his signature or veto, a number of bills passed by the legislature this year are awaiting action. Deal still must make decisions on bills relating to beer sales, self-driving cars and medical marijuana. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal has largely cleared his desk of contentious bills, including a new law allowing permit-holders to carry concealed firearms on public college campuses he signed on Thursday.

 

But Deal still has several days to consider remaining bills before Tuesday’s deadline for his signature or veto. Any legislation that Deal doesn’t act on within 40 days of adjournment by the General Assembly becomes law without his name.

Here’s a look at some of the issues still on the Republican governor’s desk before Tuesday’s deadline:

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Backers of Georgia’s small program allowing the use of medical cannabis oil hope Deal will sign off on an expansion of the program.

Lawmakers approved a compromise bill that would add six new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis oil, including autism, AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease. Many of the additions restrict use to patients who are in severe or end-stage condition.

It also allows people in a hospice program, regardless of diagnosis, access to the oil that’s low in THC, the chemical responsible for the marijuana high.

Deal hasn’t publicly weighed in but has said he generally supports limited expansion of the two-year-old program.

HEALTH CARE: A variety of bills dealing with health issues remain on Deal’s desk, including a change allowing optometrists to perform injections around the eye. State law now requires that only ophthalmologists, who have at least four additional years of medical training, perform injections.

Lawmakers also approved bills to create a grant program for the state’s struggling rural hospitals and requiring employers to let sick leave be used to care for an immediate family member. Another measure lets dental hygienists to perform some work without a dentist’s supervision; a tweak that supporters say will benefit rural communities with few dentists.

SELF-DRIVING CARS: Another measure allows self-driving vehicles in Georgia. Supporters said car and technology companies, insurance providers and injury attorneys signed off on the proposal and warned that Georgia would be left behind as other states pass similar legislation.

The proposal requires drivers of the vehicles to have a higher amount of insurance coverage than what is required for traditional vehicles until the end of 2019.

BEER SALES: Deal’s also still mulling a change to Georgia law on beer sales at breweries. Lawmakers compromised after several years of fights between craft brewers and wholesalers that act as a middleman for brewers and retailers.

The bill does away with prohibition-era laws setting up that relationship. The change allows visitors to breweries to buy a few beers and take up to a case of beer home, rather than buying a required tour package to drink a brewery’s product on-site.

The bill includes craft distilleries, allowing them to serve liquor and allow customers to purchase up to three bottles of spirits right from the source.

‘UPSKIRTING’ FLAW: Lawmakers hope Deal will sign off on closing a gap in state law that led a court to toss a man’s conviction for filming videos up a woman’s skirt.

Security footage showed Brandon Lee Gary aiming his phone under the woman’s skirt at least four times as she shopped at a grocery store. But a divided Court of Appeals ruled this summer that Gary’s behavior was “reprehensible” but didn’t explicitly violate the state’s invasion of privacy law.

The bill would make it a felony to observe, photograph or film someone under or through their clothing without consent.

 

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