Dale Jackson, who owns a heating and air conditioning company, attended this year’s Republican National Convention as a delegate from Georgia’s third congressional district, an area of conservative suburbs south of Atlanta. Jackson has three children and the middle-one, Colin, has low-functioning autism. Colin has responded well to cannabis oil with a specific ratio of CBD to THC. But Jackson’s support for access to medical marijuana puts him at odds with his party, which rejected supporting medical marijuana in its 2016 platform. Jackson and I spoke recently about what cannabis has done for his son, and about his experience at the GOP’s convention in Cleveland. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Meet the delegate pushing to make weed part of the GOP Platform.
The Fresh Toast: How has Colin responded to cannabis oil?
Dale Jackson: Before we started treating him, he wasn’t able to communicate in any way and now, he’s feeding himself with minimal assistance. I just get a scoop of oatmeal and leave the spoon in the bowl, and then he’s picking it up himself and putting it in his mouth. In the past, he would do that every once in awhile if I poked his elbow, got him started. This seems so trivial, but for us, it’s really not.
When we’re out eating, he wouldn’t ever be able to communicate to us if he’s hungry or if he’s thirsty. Now, I still have to feed him every meal, but if I slow down in scooping up whatever he’s eating, he’ll start poking the plate or poking me. Now, if he’s thirsty, he’ll poke his cup. That’s him communicating with us that, “Hey, I want another bite,” or, “Hey, I’m thirsty.” That has never happened before.
While he still can’t verbally speak, I feel that there has been a tremendous increase in the communication between us and him.
Let’s talk about the convention. What happened in the room?
I arrived Monday [July 18] and I met with some of my contacts and they felt the best approach would be to present it to the full platform committee. [With Eric Brakey, a State Senator from Maine] we presented the amendment before the full committee.
The ignorance that was on display from the platform committee– they had no idea what they were talking about — was extremely painful to listen to, especially because I wasn’t able to respond. One poor lady literally blamed all of the mass murders on kids smoking pot.
Here in Georgia, which is considered a very red state, we did numerous polls just in support of medical cannabis oil and in growing cannabis in the state of Georgia, and it was actually the most popular topic in the state.
When obviously, I believe, nearly every single one of those kids that committed those murders has been documented that they were on FDA-approved psychotic medication, and not pot.
Did anyone respond positively?
There were probably ten different people that spoke out either for or against, and I would say three or four out of the ten responded positively. The six or seven that spoke out against it, obviously didn’t have a clue what we were talking about.
There was just a poll that found that for the first time, more Republicans support legalizing marijuana than don’t. And not just medical marijuana.
Here in Georgia, which is considered a very red state, we did numerous polls just in support of medical cannabis oil and in growing cannabis in the state of Georgia, and it was actually the most popular topic in the state. At the beginning of the legislative session, the largest newspaper did a poll on the top six or seven issues, and of all the issues, the general public supported our bill at an 82%, and that’s Democrats and Republicans.
This was the medical bill.
Right, the bill we were trying to pass was to make it legal to actually grow it in the state so that we can get oil legally. Right now, the law that we passed in 2015 just basically gives us a card where we can use it but we have no legal way to get it.
We’re not druggies, just looking for an excuse to use cannabis. The worst thing [for opponents], is for one of us to get arrested for helping our child. Put me in front of a jury, please.
That’s why so many, myself and so many other autistic parents now, we’re just openly treating our children with cannabis oil and bragging about it on social media, because we know that law enforcement doesn’t want to touch us. They’re not going to touch us.
Because you’re parents, because you’re upstanding people?
Exactly. We’re not druggies, just looking for an excuse to use cannabis. The worst thing [for opponents], is for one of us to get arrested for helping our child. Put me in front of a jury, please. This issue will get resolved real quick.
As a longtime Republican activist, what do you see as needing to happen for the base to come around on this?
On medical cannabis oil, there’s nothing fancy that needs to be done. It’s strictly education. That’s it. I go and speak to group after group after group of Republicans and I specifically try to go and talk with any group I can with individuals over 60. Within ten minutes of just explaining the law and explaining what medical cannabis oil is, they are instantly converted and supportive.
But before that, before they hear, their concept of medical cannabis is me literally smoking a joint and blowing smoke in my child’s face. That’s where they’re coming from.