Senate passes medical marijuana bill

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Senate passes medical marijuana bill

A two-year effort to legalize medical marijuana in Georgia may finally succeed, as the Senate passed a likely compromise that would OK a limited form of the drug for disorders including cancer, seizures and sickle cell disease.

House Bill 1 still needs another nod from the House before it receives final passage. But by beating back efforts from the chamber’s conservatives to gut the bill on the floor, Senate supporters have handed over legislation likely to make that happen — especially since it is already supported by the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.

The compromise was made last week, after Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, rewrote HB 1 as a way to merge a restrictive medical marijuana measure already approved in the Senate and a much broader effort already approved by the House.

The new version would allow cannabis oil to be used to treat eight of the nine disorders sought by the House in that chamber’s own medical marijuana proposal: cancer, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders and sickle cell disease.

It would expand on a previous Senate proposal that would restrict usage to children and, instead, open the door to both children and adults as being eligible for treatment. It would, however, eliminate one disorder favored by the House — fibromyalgia — as being an accepted disorder for treatment.

And it would set a higher bar for what type of oil would be allowed: The oil could contain no more than 5 percent THC — the high-inducing chemical associated with recreational marijuana use — and must include at least a matching amount of cannabidiol to ensure better purity and quality of the drug.

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