3/6/18 - Atlanta - Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, surrounded by supporters, addresses the media after he qualified to run for governor this afternoon. Qualifying for Georgia's 2018 elections began Monday and runs through Friday. Georgia has races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and other statewide posts, and every congressional seat nationwide is up for a vote in November. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Medical marijuana expansion in Georgia shot down till next year

The chances that Georgia would legalize growing medical marijuana this year have dropped from slim to none.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and several senators announced Thursday they plan to form a study committee to recommend how patients can safely access medical marijuana.

By endorsing a study of the issue, senators made clear they don’t intend to support legislation this year that would allow medical marijuana harvesting and distribution.

The prospects for in-state medical marijuana cultivation were already mostly dashed last month when Gov. Nathan Deal said he opposed it. Now, Cagle and senators are agreeing to study the issue before taking action.

Georgia’s medical marijuana law, passed in 2015, made it legal for patients suffering from cancer and other illnesses to posses small amounts of cannabis oil if a physician approves.

But state law still bans growing, buying or transporting the drug, leaving patients with no way to legally obtain it.

“Georgians understand that many families depend on medical cannabis oil to treat otherwise debilitating illnesses,” Cagle said. “We are taking a major step to ensure that our state is doing everything possible to provide patients with the most effective treatments through a safe, reliable and accessible system.”

Senate Resolution 983 would create the study committee and provide recommendations before next year’s legislative session.

The resolution says Georgians need a safe and legal way to obtain cannabis oil. It also says that efforts to help these patients shouldn’t lead to recreational marijuana.

A separate measure that’s still alive in the Georgia General Assembly this year would allow medical marijuana for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain. 

That legislation, House Bill 764, passed the House on a 145-17 vote Feb. 28 and is now pending in the Senate.

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