New push to expand medical marijuana in Georgia

A group of parents and advocates is set to announce a new effort next week calling for Georgia to expand its medical marijuana law and allow growers to harvest and distribute their product in-state.

Georgians for Freedom in Healthcare plans to make a formal announcement about the effort Tuesday at the state Capitol with an eye toward the upcoming legislative session that starts in January.

Georgia for the first time this year formally approved the use of a limited form of cannabis oil to treat illnesses including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. More than 200 families have since qualified for the state’s new medical marijuana registry, allowing them to use the oil for treatment.

The law, however, does not address the oil’s manufacture or how to buy or obtain it. In fact, the sale of any form of marijuana is and remains a violation of state and federal law. Essentially, state lawmakers this year only created a way for some people to be protected from prosecution for having a limited form of the oil in their possession.

Three companies currently ship low-dose cannabis oil into Georgia — something families have discovered on their own, with no help from the state.

The Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis — which is scheduled to meet Wednesday — is now studying whether to recommend the law go further but has not yet reached a conclusion.

The commission has already heard from advocates encouraging it to develop guidelines related to cultivation and production in Georgia.

Law enforcement officials are still skeptical, but manufacturers and growers who testified at a commission meeting in August said their priority in cultivating plants for the oil include safety, security measures and testing that, among the top manufacturers, is often done by independent UL-listed laboratories.

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