Child Health Bills Fail at Georgia Legislature

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Updated: Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:07:38 EST

Strong reactions early Friday morning after the bill to expand medical marijuana usage failed during the Georgia Legislature's final day.

The flurry of papers signaled the end of this year's legislative session and the beginning of the blame game. A bill to expand medical marijuana usage to allow cannabis oil for the treatment of seizures in the state failed by midnight. Supporters are now pointing the finger at Sen. Renee Unterman.

"She essentially said she was holding our bill hostage," medical marijuana supporter Shannon Cloud said.

The senate unanimously passed HB 885 earlier in the day but joined it with another bill that didn't have much support from certain house members. That bill would have required insurance companies to cover the cost of diagnosis and treatment of autism in small children. When it looked like that would fail, Rep. Allen Peake who sponsored the Medical Marijuana bill tried attaching a version of it to another piece of legislation. Bills stalled and time expired without a decision being reached.

While Unterman is the target of blame Friday, she appears to support both bills.

“The Senate agreed that we would never split this bill, that we care about all children in the state of Georgia and not just a certain segment of children," Unterman said.

Medical marijuana supporters say not budging is what killed their legislation.

"All indications were our bill was a slam dunk without it,” Cloud said. “It's not like we don't want children with autism to get their therapy covered, that's important. We all have special needs kids, we're all in this together but when it comes down to it that's what caused our bill to get stuck in the process."

Emotions also running high for autism supporters who stayed at the capital until midnight.

"You know I'm going to be honest that I'm angry," autism insurance supporter Anna Bullard said

This is the fifth year autism advocates pushed for the legislation.

"The only reason it can't get passed is because you have insurance lobbyists up here saying lies," she said.

Both medical marijuana and autism advocates say they support one another but are disheartened to see issues can come down to politics.

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