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Ga. panel OKs medical marijuana bill

Thursday, March 13, 2014 8:00 AM
Last updated 6:39 PM
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ATLANTA -- A Senate panel Wednesday unanimously approved a newly revised bill that would legalize marijuana derivatives in Georgia for treatment of patients with cancer, glaucoma and seizure disorders.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee amended HB 885, the original House version of the medical marijuana bill, to make it easier for Georgians to gain access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a non-psychoactive derivative of marijuana.

The major change would grant immunity from prosecution in Georgia for possession of CBD oil obtained legally in a state that permits the use of medical marijuana.

Twenty states have legalized medical use of marijuana, and recently two states, Colorado and Washington, have also legalized recreational use.

The original HB 885 was sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who championed the legislation to help children who suffer from serious seizure disorders. CBD has proved effective in reducing the number and duration of seizures, according to parents and physicians.

Under the Senate committee version of the bill, children with seizures or patients with cancer or glaucoma could use the CBD or other marijuana derivatives as soon as they were able to secure them from outside Georgia. And patients could take them directly without supervision by a Georgia physician or an academic medical center.

But there’s still a legal catch if the bill is passed. Transporting any marijuana, medical or otherwise, across state lines is a federal crime. That means Georgia parents or adult patients would risk arrest by federal authorities if caught bringing CBD from another state, such as Colorado, where the oil is manufactured. Some Georgia families already have moved to Colorado to get legal access to the oil for their ailing children.

Sen. Fran Millar (R-Atlanta) said he supports the intent of helping Georgia children with seizures, as well as cancer and glaucoma patients, but worries that the bill would condone illegal behavior.

“Let’s leave that decision to the parents,” Peake told lawmakers. “If they are willing to take the risk that a TSA agent will arrest them with a vial of oil, let’s let them make the decision.”

Parents of three children who suffer from uncontrolled seizures urged the committee to approve the legislation. Jenea Cox, mother of 4-year-old Haleigh Cox, told the lawmakers Wednesday that she would be moving to Colorado on Thursday to get the oil for her daughter, who suffers as many as 200 seizures a day. “I can’t wait any longer,” she said.

Haleigh, who attended the Senate hearing, was the inspiration for Peake’s legislation, which he called Haleigh’s Hope Act.

Anthony and Sarah Caruso of Flowery Branch also brought their daughter, 5-year-old Britlyn. She suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Prior to the hearing, Sarah Caruso described the bill as “a step in the right direction.”

“Parents are being told it’s a ‘false hope,’ ” Sarah said. “We don’t consider it a false hope. This is a plan to get the medicine in the future.”

The Senate committee version of the bill was written with the help of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, whose legislative counsel, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, testified in favor of the legislation. Porter said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had reviewed the bill’s language.

The Georgia Sheriffs Association also supports the bill.

Porter said Georgia prosecutors are not interested in depriving children or adults of medical marijuana, but simply want legislation that does not open the door to legalizing recreational marijuana.

The language in the amended bill meets that standard, Porter indicated, because it clearly defines non-smoking marijuana derivatives and exempts them from the state’s Controlled Substances Act.

The Senate version, in an apparent concession to some critics, eliminates a provision in the original House bill allowing academic medical centers to grow marijuana and manufacture the non-smoking derivatives.

The Senate committee also tacked onto the marijuana legislation a provision mandating insurance coverage for treatment of autism. A separate Senate bill on such coverage has stalled in the House.

Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman (R-Buford) said if the committee’s version of HB 885 is passed by the full Senate, it will be renamed the “Kids Care Act.” The Senate bill will then be referred to a House-Senate Conference Committee to resolve differences with the original HB 885.

Peake told the committee there may be some pushback from the House on the Senate version. He told GHN his House colleagues may resist the autism portion of the Senate bill.

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GiantsAllDay 03/13/14 - 09:54 am
Colorado has raked in

Colorado has raked in $2,000,000 in taxes for legal marihuana in ONE MONTH ALONE!
Yet Georgia remains in the dark ages. How on earth did so many fools from the eighteenth century get to be in a "leadership" position here anyway?

wmarkw 03/13/14 - 12:07 pm
Please view this video before

Please view this video before you post ignorant comments. This explains the benefits of CBDs. Debuted on CNN the other night.

Bizkit 03/13/14 - 05:19 pm
Gosh leave it to govt to fix

Gosh leave it to govt to fix a problem with nebulous ambiguity leaving people clueless.

Bizkit 03/13/14 - 05:30 pm
You can bet if it meant the

You can bet if it meant the life of my child I'd grow illegal pot to purify the CBDs and screw them. The CBDs have the most medical applications (it also thought to be antagonistic to the bad effects of THC) but THC does have some too, and there are hundreds of other compounds in pot with different effects. Lots of new pharmaceuticals coming down the pike are because of cannabis research. Seems ridiculous society accepts using chemotherapy with many derived from plant toxins (vinca alkaloids ) that are anti-mitotic to try and kill the cancer before it kills you, but you can't smoke pot or consume CBDs derived from pot for medical purposes.

Bizkit 03/13/14 - 05:35 pm
I support the medical, but

I support the medical, but the popular consumption legality I'd like to use Colorado as a pilot test to see how it all works. If in five years all is good then smoke away. But I do have some concerns (not so much with pot) but other issues that stem from its use.

oldredneckman96 03/13/14 - 06:28 pm

I love the fact that pot heads ignore the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Administration and Federal Trade Commission in order to get their fix. We have the best system in the world to develop, distribute and maintain the safety of prescription drugs. Billion dollar drug manufacturing companies work night and day to develop the next cure and yet some dude in his mothers basement believes pot will cure his zits and our politicians fall all over themselves to vote to throw all that aside. Medical pot is only a ploy to let dope in the front door, look at Colorado and Washington State.

itsanotherday1 03/13/14 - 11:45 pm
10-4 Bizkit

I watched the show on CNN that the other poster referenced, and it was very interesting. For one, they will probably blow the "medical MJ" issue out of the water if they continue to extract the needed compounds and make an oral medication specific for the disease. That will leave the people getting high under the guise of "medicinal" purposes exposed.

Then we will be able to address the recreational use as a standalone question.

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