Georgia House gives final approval to medical marijuana bill

Legislation that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in Georgia to treat a limited number of disorders is on its way to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

Deal has indicated he will sign House Bill 1 into law. The vote in the House to agree to changes to the bill made in the Senate was 160-1, with only Rep. Stephen Allison, R-Blairsville, voting against the motion. Allison later declined to explain his vote.

The bill would provide immunity for the possession of a certain type of marijuana-based oil with a doctor’s recommendation to treat eight of the nine disorders originally sought by the House: cancer, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders and sickle cell disease

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who championed the bill for the past two years, said HB 1 “relieves pain for a lot of our citizens.”

“Last year, as we ventured into uncharted territory, you stood with me,” Peake told his colleagues. “This year, as we’ve attempted to learn about his controversial issue and push the envelope to allow more hurting Georgians to have access to cannabis oil, you hung in there with me again.”

The bill is named “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” after Haleigh Cox, a 5-year-old girl who suffers from seizures. Peake met her 15 months ago when she was in intensive care.

“She was literally on her death bed,” Peake said.

Two months later, Peake’s first attempt to legalize medical marijuana failed on the final day of the 2014 session. Haleigh and her mom left her father in Georgia and moved to Colorado, where marijuana use is legal. With access to cannabis oil, “she saw remarkable improvement,” Peake said.

Haleigh was in the House on Wednesday when the bill was given final approval.

If Deal signs HB 1 into law, Georgia would become the 24th state to allow at least some patients legal access to medical cannabis.

HB 1 would allow patients to possess up to 20 ounces of a cannabis oil that is equal parts THC — the chemical in marijuana that produces a high — and cannabadiol, the compound that treats the disorders.

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Staff writer Kristina Torres contributed to this article.