House committee OK’s compromise to expand Georgia’s medical marijuana law

A compromise to expand Georgia's medical marijuana law cleared a key House committee Friday, the first formal OK for Senate Bill 16 since House and Senate leaders made the agreement.

It would add six conditions eligible for treatment with a limited form of cannabis oil allowed in Georgia: Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome.

Additionally, patients in hospice care could also possess the oil.

Other changes include a 45-day reciprocity window for people who come to Georgia from another state, as long as they have a medical marijuana registration card issued by another state, a condition that's allowed to be treated in Georgia and a form of the oil that is allowed here.

While advocates have cheered the deal, it's also drawn the ire of national groups seeking to tamp down on medical marijuana without firm evidence the drug has a scientific benefit.

“We don’t want anyone to suffer, but the National Academies of Sciences report out just a few months ago stated there was little to no evidence of relief for those conditions just approved,” said Kevin A. Sabet, president of Virginia-based Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

“We need to fast track FDA-approved medications so that people can get relief from medications with known dosages and purity,” Sabet said. “We don’t want anyone to suffer needlessly. But this is not the most responsible move by any means the Legislature could have taken.”

Under Georgia's 2015 law, patients and, in the case of children, families who register with the state are allowed to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of eight specific illnesses, including cancer, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.