Push to expand Georgia’s medical marijuana law has stalled in Senate

A bill that would expand the list of medical conditions that could be treated on Georgia's medical marijuana law has stalled in committee, after Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said Monday that she will not schedule a hearing on it before the Legislature ends work March 24.

House Bill 722 would have added HIV/AIDS, epidermolysis bullosa, post-traumatic stress disorder, Tourette's syndrome and other disorders and illnesses to the list of qualifying medical conditions eligible for the state's cannabis oil program, which became legal last year.

Unterman said she felt the push to expand the list needed more work and discussion than time would allow during the session.

“I met with some of the families and I’ve committed to continue working on it with them, and that’s what I told them,” Unterman said. When asked if she expected to schedule a hearing, she said: “No, it’s not coming up.”

The bill's sponsor, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, expressed disappointment but said he was not giving up. "Hurting Georgia citizens are worth fighting for," Peake said.

Peake originally introduced the bill as a way to allow Georgia manufacturers to grow and cultivate medical marijuana in-state under strict controls. That proposal, however, was opposed by the state's law enforcement community and the House narrowed the bill to an expansion of the list of qualifying medical conditions.

Lawmakers passed Georgia’s landmark legislation last year allowing Georgians to use a limited form of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of eight illnesses including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

Hundreds of families are now enrolled in the program, which went live in June when a new state registry began signing up patients. But while state law now makes it legal for those patients to have and use the drug, they must travel to other states to get it, which makes them vulnerable to criminal charges of drug possession in other states.