UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Isakson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the senator "only supports rescheduling cannabis oil under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s system, not marijuana more broadly."
The effort to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act just got a new high-profile endorser.
"I believe in its use for medical purposes, they're documented," U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, said during a telephone town hall meeting on Thursday night. "On the schedule, in the scheme of things, it's miscalculated in the schedule."
Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), where cannabis is currently classified, is the most restrictive category and is supposed to be reserved for substances with no medical value and a high potential for abuse.
Until now, Isakson hasn't been known on Capitol Hill as a strong champion for marijuana law reform.
Of the 10 cannabis law reform bills filed in the Senate during the 114th Congress, Isakson only added his name as a cosponsor of one, a fairly limited proposal to exempt cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabis plants and preparations containing less than 0.3% THC from the CSA’s definition of marijuana.
During the town hall, Isakson said an effort by state Rep. Allen Peake, a fellow Republican, to expand Georgia's existing limited CBD medical cannabis oil law is "a good thing."
Peake is pushing legislation to add several new qualifying conditions to the program.
Isakson was responding to a question from a voter who said she has multiple sclerosis and a husband with PTSD and a knee injury from military deployment. Under the state's restrictive law, they are not eligible to receive medical cannabis legally.
"Cannabis oil has been proven to be helpful," said Isakson, who disclosed in 2015 that he has Parkinson's disease.
A 2014 study of Parkinson's patients found "significant improvement of sleep and pain scores" and that "no significant adverse effects of the drug were observed."
For now, Isakson's support for marijuana reform seems to be limited to just its medical purposes.
"I'm not for just totally decriminalizing marijuana," he said. "Although everybody that takes it doesn't become a drug addict, I've heard many people say anybody who was ever a drug addict started with marijuana, and we don't want to start that foundation or make it too easy to get."
He went on to say that he has friends in the Colorado legislature who aren't happy with how legalization has been implemented there.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is expected to soon introduce comprehensive legislation to allow states to implement their own medical cannabis laws without federal interference. It is unknown if Isakson will join as a cosponsor, though he didn't sign on to the version of the bill supported by 20 other senators in the last Congress.
This post was originally published on March 10, 2017, it was updated on March 24, 2017.