Compromise could lead to medical marijuana bill’s approval

Supporters of a bill that would legalize limited use of medical marijuana in Georgia say a compromise is at hand that could lead to its approval before the 2014 legislative session ends.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday that his House Bill 885 is expected to pass out of a Senate committee this afternoon.

Peake said the bill will be amended to provide immunity from prosecution to anyone who is in possession of the particular cannabis oil the bill wants to make legal.

HB 885 is designed to allow the use of cannabis oil to treat certain seizure disorders, afflictions that can cause hundreds of seizures a day and often leads to death.

Peake has struggled to craft language that creates a safe supply of the oil, which is harvested from the marijuana plant but does not create the high that recreational use of marijuana produces.

Peake said the bill will allow for the state’s research institutions to prepare for the day that federal law is eased to allow the cultivation of the plant for medicinal purposes. In the meantime, those patients will have to travel outside Georgia to find a supply, with Colorado being the most likely source.

The immunity from prosecution provision is designed to protect those who enter Georgia legally with the cannabis oil.

The bill would still limit the number of patients who would qualify for the treatment and require multiple levels of approval before its use is allowed.

Peake said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, supports the bill and expects it to pass out of her committee when it meets at 2 p.m. today.

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