Medical Cannabis in Georgia: A Home Grown Story Part II

Our state made great strides in 2015 when House Bill 1 (Haleigh’s Hope Act) was passed, spearheaded by House Representative Allen Peake.  This bill allowed patients with eight qualifying conditions the ability to be registered with the state department of public health to use cannabis oil.  The conditions are as follows: Cancer, Mitochondrial Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Sickle Cell Disease, Seizures, Multiple Sclerosis, Crohn’s Disease and ALS.   The stipulation with the bill was it must be in oil form and that it must contain under 5 percent THC.  Although this was a great start, this bill left many needy patients ineligible. Legal cardholders quickly discovered that they had no way to legally obtain the oil in the state of Georgia without breaking the law.

In 2016, we were very excited about HB722. This bill, if passed, would have allowed in state cultivation of medical cannabis in the state of Georgia and would have added additional diagnoses to be issued a legal card with doctor’s recommendation.  The bill proposed 2-6 licensed growers with a seed to sell tracking system in the form of oil, liquid or pill form.  The additional proposed diagnoses were AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Terminal Illness, PTSD, Autism and Alzheimer’s.  We were thrilled when this bill passed the house with a vote of 152-8.  Unfortunately, we did not have the same luck in the senate and the bill died at the last minute.

This year, we have 2 very important bills being discussed at our state Capital regarding medical marijuana in Georgia and one house resolution.   They are House Bill 65, HR 36 and Senate Bill 16.  House Bill 65 will add 6 additional diagnoses, which includes Autism, Tourette’s syndrome, intractable pain, Alzheimer’s, PTSD and AIDS.  If you have any of these conditions, please contact your state representative and Senator and tell them why we need this bill to pass.

The resolution, HR-36, which would allow a state wide public vote on whether Georgia will allow the production and distribution of medical cannabis.  This vote would take place on the 2018 ballot, which is the next election allowing for changes in the Georgia Constitution. This bill would allow all revenue collected from taxes to be dedicated to a fund to support drug treatment programs.  An AJC poll has shown over the last two years that over 70 percent of Georgia citizens support the in state production and distribution of medical cannabis.

The last bill about medical cannabis is Senate Bill 16.  This bill would reduce the amount of THC allowed  in cannabis oil from 5 percent to 3 percent.  This bill would supersede HB1 and would greatly affect many covered patients that have had success with cannabis oil containing 5 percent THC, my daughter included.  Please refer to the article I wrote last year for The Snellville Times, titled HB 722: A home grown story (click here for story).  Norah has Aicardi syndrome and suffers from severe epilepsy.  She is currently using cannabis oil with 5 percent THC to control her seizures and has had a 90 percent reduction. Norah has a low THC card issued by the department of public health.  The patients’ physicians should determine what they need, not our lawmakers.

Over the last decade, the issue of medical Cannabis has been more and more heavily debated. The cannabis plant was made illegal in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax act, but was more heavily regulated after the Controlled Substance Act of 1970.  Federal discontent with the social movement of the late 60’s alongside the plant`s strong association with minorities made marijuana one of, if not the, primary target of Nixon’s War on Drugs. Recently, however, the public opinion has dissented from Federal Law. In a 2015 poll, the Atlanta Journal Constitution found that 84.5% of Georgians somewhat strongly support the use of medical cannabis oil. There is a strong public misconception about the role of cannabis in medicine.  Primarily, that its sole use is pain relief.  Although Marijuana is an effective painkiller and is significantly less addictive and harmful than opiate-based pharmaceuticals, the strongest argument for medical marijuana likely comes from the families of people and children with epilepsy to help lessen the severity and frequency of seizures.  Parents of seizure-ridden children were a large part of the movement towards medical marijuana in Georgia.  Haleigh Cox, who was 4 in late 2013, suffered from seizures that were greatly reduced with the use of cannabis oil.  Her family contacted their representative, Allan Peake, to discuss the reason cannabis was a needed treatment option.  Peake, a Republican, played a significant role in drafting and presenting the bill to the state.  Nathan Deal, Georgia’s governor, signed House Bill 1, also called Haleigh’s Hope Act, on April 16, 2015. While this was a step in the right direction, HB 1 is very restrictive to patients. It is still considered a felony to cross state lines and obtain the cannabis oil, even with a legal card. This requires federal and state law to be broken to get cannabis oil to the patients that need it. There are, however, other uses for cannabis in the medical field.  In states that have legalized medical cannabis, painkiller prescription overdoses have reduced by 24.8 % (JAMA).  According to the Kaiser Family foundation, almost half of Americans know someone personally who has been addicted to prescription painkillers (Kaiser April 2016 health tracking poll). Medical Marijuana is a safer medication and a lighter drug than commonly prescribed opiates like Vicodin, especially compared to Vicodin’s illicit cousin, Heroin.


Currently Marijuana is a Schedule 1 Substance, which the DEA defines as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. Schedule 1 is the most severe classification for drugs in the United States. Currently MDMA, LSD, and marijuana are also schedule 1, while more harmful drugs like Cocaine and Methamphetamine reside in Schedule 2. The DEA is currently in charge of scheduling, as well as enforcing (at the Federal Level) drug use. Our government was designed with checks and balances, where no branch has autonomy. The DEA makes its money on the regulations it ordains. However, medical marijuana is currently legal in 28 of the 50 states and families of those with epilepsy in those states can give their children the medication they need, legally.

Few drugs in the United States have produced the amount of controversy that marijuana has in the past decade.  Many people have found medical marijuana to be a medication that relieves the symptoms of their medical condition without the debilitating side effects of harsh pharmaceutical drugs. That not only being said but proven, it is absurd that so many innocent people must break the law just to find relief for conditions that they did not chose to have in the first place.  It is commonly referred to as a gateway drug.  Thousands of Georgia families are deciding between going without medication or risking a felony charge, all because Georgia legislators refuse to realize how cannabis can treat ailments.  Please contact our senators and state reps and let them know why we need medical cannabis in Georgia and how important cultivation is in the state of Georgia.

This story was shared by courtesy of Beckee Lynch

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