“The problem is that there’s nowhere to purchase the oil here in the state of Georgia,” said Gravley, a Republican from Douglasville. “We know it’s beneficial. We’ve seen seizures reduced, we’ve seen the easing of the effects of Parkinson’s, cancer, (multiple sclerosis), Crohn’s, sickle cell anemia and autism.”
Janea Cox of Forsyth uses a medical marijuana oil to treat her daughter Haleigh, who suffers from Lennox Gastaux syndrome, a form of severe epilepsy. Georgia’s medical marijuana law, named the Haleigh’s Hope Act, legalizes the possession of the oil for people suffering from a limited number of illnesses. It does not, however, allow for in-state cultivation, meaning patients on the state’s registry must bring in the oil from outside Georgia. BITA HONARVAR/SPECIAL
The bill’s prospects are uncertain in the Georgia General Assembly, but the proposal has bipartisan support from members of the state’s Republican majority as well as many Democrats.
If approved, Georgia would join 31 states that already allow some form of marijuana cultivation, according to the Joint Commission on Low THC Medical Oil Access, a group of lawmakers and stakeholders that recommended licensing marijuana growers, manufacturers and dispensaries.
The bill is opposed by those who fear it will eventually lead to outright legalization of marijuana for recreational use. They say the drug is unsafe and its health benefits are overstated.
“Cultivation is the kiss of death. It leads to full legalization,” said Sue Rusche, the president and CEO of National Families in Action, which is based in Atlanta. “Every state that has legalized marijuana for recreational use began with legalizing cultivation of marijuana for medical use.”
Parents of children who use medical marijuana for various illnesses came to the Capitol on Thursday to support the bill, saying it’s long overdue.
Julie Denton said her 9-year-old son, Christian, has dramatically improved since he started taking medical marijuana to treat his genetic disorder, Kabuki syndrome. The oil helps him focus, communicate, remain calm and sleep through the night, she said.
“We shouldn’t have to worry about what we’ll do if we run out,” said Denton, who lives in Kennesaw. “There should be an easy way to get it.”
Georgia’s medical marijuana law covers 16 conditions, including severe seizures, deadly cancer, peripheral neuropathy and multiple sclerosis. Patients who register with the state are protected from criminal prosecution for possessing up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil.
Last year, the General Assembly added post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain to the list of conditions eligible for treatment by cannabis oil.
Mar. 28, 2017 - Atlanta - Rep. Allen Peake, R - Macon, is congratulated after the House passed SB 16, which would expand the list of disorders eligible for treatment under the state’s nascent medical marijuana program. The chamber voted 167-4 on Tuesday to adopt the bill. The 39th legislative day of the 2017 General Assembly. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has left open the possibility for in-state cultivation of medical marijuana.
“I sympathize and empathize with them on that issue, and I support research-based expansion,” Kemp said last month in an interview on Georgia Public Broadcasting. “Thankfully, there is some research that’s going on in this field that will give us some good data that will kind of tell us how to move forward.”
The legislation proposes that the state license a total of 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, split between large growers and distributors, smaller-scale companies and stand-alone retailers.
Initial licenses would cost at least $150,000 for large companies, $37,500 for smaller companies and $30,000 for retailers. Businesses would also have to pay annual license renewal fees ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.
Licenses would be approved by Jan. 1, 2020, and state-sanctioned medical marijuana products would be available to patients within 12 months of the license date.
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