Georgia’s leaders are calling on one of Cobb’s top-ranking police officers to help guide them in regards to medical marijuana laws and practices in the state.

Austell Police Chief Bob Starrett was one of seven people appointed to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, a body that is authorized by state legislation to consider and approve licenses for companies to grow and sell medical marijuana oil in Georgia.

Each member of the commission was appointed by either Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston or Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan.

Starrett, an appointment of Ralston’s, told the MDJ he supports medical marijuana being legally accessible for people struggling with debilitating illnesses and conditions.

Starrett said it’s common among law enforcement personnel to think of medical marijuana as a “gateway” to other drugs but that’s no longer his opinion, after research and personal experience with patients.

“I’m honored to have been selected to be a part of this board,” Starrett said. “I have been a law enforcement officer for more than 40 years and I have an intimate understanding of why drugs need to be regulated to protect our communities. I have also seen how beneficial medical cannabis oil can be to those who need it.”

Starrett said he aims to assist the commission “to ensure that this medicine remains accessible to those in need and that it is properly regulated to ensure compliance with the law and safety for patients.”

Ralston, who also appointed Georgia Board of Pharmacy President William Prather to the commission, said both Starrett’s and Prather’s professional expertise will be “invaluable.”

“From the beginning, we have been motivated by the desire to help Georgians suffering from chronic and painful conditions,” Ralston said in a news release. “We have acted deliberately to implement a well-regulated and tightly controlled medical cannabis system that is safe and secure.”

The news release stated Georgia currently has 15,000 registered medical marijuana patients.

It was about seven months ago that Kemp signed into law the state’s new medical marijuana legislation, part of which authorizes the commission and its duties.

Commission members will serve four-year terms and be administratively attached to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

Others appointed include a small business owner, a spine surgeon, an associate professor of health policy at Emory University, the chief medical officer at Emory Healthcare and a Kaiser Permanente doctor.

“Georgia’s Hope Act provides a critical pathway for Georgians with chronic, debilitating diseases to get the help that they desperately need,” Kemp said in a news release.

“This group of citizens is now positioned to carry out the intent of this legislation by creating and executing the initial framework of this important process,” Duncan said. “A process that will ultimately deliver medicinal value to those who have been narrowly defined in the legislation and have been eagerly awaiting relief.”

Starrett said he expects to be formally sworn in as a commission member at Kemp’s office on Nov. 22.

Part of the difficulty for medical marijuana patients in Georgia currently, is they can legally possess and use the prescribed cannabis medicine but they can’t legally buy, sell or transport it in the state, Starrett told the MDJ, citing other states where it is more effectively managed like Florida.

Starrett said he didn’t apply for the position, but he indicated a willingness to be involved in discussions around the new medical marijuana law when approached by legislators at the time it was being debated.

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