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Ga. panel OKs growing medical marijuna

Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 8:16 AM
Last updated 7:25 PM
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ATLANTA -- A state House panel Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would permit medical marijuana to be grown and used in Georgia for treatment of patients with cancer, glaucoma and seizure disorders under tightly controlled restrictions.

The Health and Human Services Committee’s passage of the high-profile legislation paves the way for the full House to vote on the bill and, if approved, send it to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 885, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, underwent significant revisions to address concerns that the original bill would have unintentionally run afoul of federal law.

Peake championed the legislation, called Haleigh’s Hope Act, after learning of the plight of 4-year-old Haleigh Cox of Monroe County. The girl suffers from epilepsy and endures as many as 100 seizures a day.

For children with conditions similar to Haleigh’s, a non-psychoactive marijuana derivative called cannabidiol (CBD) has been effective in significantly reducing the seizures. For many children it has proved to be the only treatment providing relief, parents have said.

After a hearing, Peake gathered with parents who have aggressively supported the bill in hopes of getting access to CBD for their children. He told them this was a first step and he congratulated his colleagues on the House committee for moving the bill forward.

Committee Chair Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, cautioned the parents during the hearing that even if HB 885 is enacted, the treatment will not be available to their children “overnight.”

Peake acknowledged as much, but told lawmakers, “The heart and intent is to find the best way for families in Georgia, in conjunction with their physicians, to get access [to the treatment.]”

The bill would authorize the Georgia Composite Medical Board to oversee the use of marijuana derivatives in a nonsmoking delivery system, such as an oil or pill form, for treatment of patients within an academic medical center research setting, under the direction of a physician.

The only conditions approved for treatment would be seizure disorders, glaucoma, and nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and radiation.

The medical board would appoint a Patient Qualification Review Board to directly oversee development of the research programs and the patients who participate.

The major obstacle in the original bill was how to gain access to the marijuana derivates. CBD is available in Colorado, which has legalized marijuana for recreational as well as medical uses. But federal law prohibits exporting the oil across state lines.

The revised HB 885 identifies two potential sources. Academic medical centers could apply to the National Institute on Drug Abuse to receive medical marijuana from the University of Mississippi, the only college in the U.S. authorized to grow marijuana for medical research.

The second source would be homegrown Georgia plants. The bill authorizes the state’s academic medical centers to grow the marijuana and process the derivatives for use in their research.

In both cases, whether grown in Georgia or imported from Mississippi, the marijuana derivatives would be stored by the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, until requested for use by the academic medical centers.

Georgia has four academic medical centers: Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Mercer University in Macon, Emory University in Atlanta and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

The discussion among the House committee focused on the issues surrounding both the administration of the medical marijuana by academic medical centers and their growing and processing of the therapeutic treatments.

Peake said the FDA would have to approve the research protocols before patients could be treated with CBD or other derivatives, whether the substances came from Mississippi or were grown in Georgia.

The larger issue, however, is whether the academic medical centers are willing to become producers of medical marijuana. In the long run, Peake said, growing the marijuana in Georgia would make it more readily available than relying on the University of Mississippi.

But members of the panel questioned whether the Georgia universities would be at risk of losing federal funding by growing and processing an illegal substance.

No representatives of the four medical centers testified whether their schools would participate.

Twenty other states have medical marijuana laws, allowing for in-state production, manufacture and distribution for treatment of patients on the recommendation of their physicians.

In August 2013, the U.S. Justice Department issued an advisory saying federal prosecutors would not pursue investigations of medical marijuana as long as its use complied with the states’ guidelines.

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soapy_725 02/27/14 - 09:27 am
Will the Evans drug treatment store be selling pot?

Will the Evans drug treatment store be selling pot?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/27/14 - 09:50 am

Finally someone has come up with a use for the "Mills Campus" idea. Grooo could grow their medical marijuana out there. That's certainly more sensible than dorms or classrooms out there.

Bizkit 02/27/14 - 10:06 am
Gosh my Mom use to say

Gosh my Mom use to say everything is going to pot. She was right.

Bizkit 02/27/14 - 11:01 am
Since people are already

Since people are already growing pot in Georgia illegally-why not just recruit their product and benefit from their knowledge and successes. I'm hesitant to support this but it seems there is no stopping this train.

Echoes86 02/27/14 - 12:16 pm
I'm glad this is happening.

I'm glad this is happening. Growing a plant is something the gov't has no business being involved in in the first place, so at least there will be a way for patients to get the medical benefits of it.

I feel like anyone who's against this has to be an undercover statist.

Kojack 02/27/14 - 10:17 pm
What is the state legislature smokin?

Have you read this Bill? So many diseases
that impact many Georgians' lives were omitted.
Why? For Example, many Georgians live with MS. Marijuana
has been shown to be effective for muscle pain, muscle tremors,
neuropathy, and nausea just to name a few symptoms.

Why in the world would a government approve
something for patient A who has no other medical hope
and not patient B who also has no other medical hope?
That's just mean!

MS was discovered in 1868 and there is still no cure
so why withhold a potential treatment when everything
the almighty FDA approves only lowers the MS patients'
quality of life?

Time's a wastin! Why not let MS'ers light up?
Marijuana won't kill their brains, but their immune
systems will and that's okay? No, that's cruel.

oldredneckman96 02/28/14 - 06:44 am

Since the feds already have a “medical” pot program, sure why not duplicate that at an additional expense. Pot heads have found more uses for pot than any snake oil salesman of a century ago and have been successful in using this ruse to get pot brought in to State protection. (See Colorado) We have a FDA that will test the efficacy of any product. We have an AMA that will ensure the correct dosage and use of any prescription drug is used by real Doctors. We have the best and safest prescription drug supply in the world due to the oversight of these agencies. When local “law” makers try to do an end run around this system, they are just accepting bribes from someone to do so.

WalterBradfordCannon 02/28/14 - 08:05 am
Colorado will generate over

Colorado will generate over $90 milliion in taxes from pot this year, and will spend over $40 million on prevention efforts, and another $40 million on substance abuse treatments. Georgia is twice the population of Colorado. Georgia has a public health budget a little over $200 million. Legalizing pot and taxing it following the Colorado model would DOUBLE out state public health budget, and DRAMATICALLY increase funding for prevention of use of marijuana, and substance abuse treatment.

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