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Georgia legalizes medical pot, limits use to 8 ailments

ATLANTA — To the squeals of sick children and thunderous applause from their parents, an emotional Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation Thursday that immediately legalizes the use of medical marijuana in Georgia to treat eight serious medical conditions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, makes it legal for people to possess up to 20 ounces of fluid cannabis oil, which he said could ease the pain and suffering of up to 500,000 people who qualify, the AJC reports. The cannabis oil can contain no more than 5 percent tetrahydrocannabinoil, or THC, the psychoactive agent.

With the stroke of a pen, Georgia became the 36th state, plus Washington, D.C., to legalize marijuana extracts to treat illnesses. That includes 12 states that only use it to treat epilepsy, Peake said.

Georgia’s law makes cannabis oil legal to treat people with epilepsy and other seizure disorders, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell anemia.

“For the families enduring separation and patients suffering pain, the wait is finally over,” said Deal, his voice cracking. “Now, Georgia children and their families may return home, while continuing to receive much-needed care. Patients such as Haleigh Cox, for whom this bill is named, and others suffering from debilitating conditions can now receive the treatment they need, in the place where they belong — Georgia.”

He hugged Haleigh, 5, who has intractable epilepsy, and her mother, Janea Cox, who have been living in Colorado for months while husband Brian, a Johns Creek firefighter, stayed in Georgia.

Peake said he was grateful to Deal and his colleagues in the statehouse “for making this historic and monumental day happen.”

Deal said he would work to make sure the state agencies involved handle the job properly and will seek to improve the law in next year’s General Assembly.

But obstacles remain. Possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law, though the U.S. Justice Department has said it will not stand in the way of states that want to legalize marijuana, as long as effective controls are in place. Joseph Moses, a special agent inAtlanta for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said the DEA will “hold to those guidelines” but added that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Asked if people who need cannabis oil will run the risk of arrest in states between Georgia and Colorado or from federal Transportation Security Administration agents at airports, he said he couldn’t “get into the hypotheticals.”

That’s what scares people like Mike Hopkins, 53, of Covington, who came home from Colorado for the bill signing ceremony. He said he’s not willing to take a chance that his daughter, Michala, might not be able to be treated with cannabis oil. Two of his children have died.

He said the 17-year-old has been “helped tremendously” by the extract but “we’re going to stay in Colorado for a while. We just can’t take the chance.”

Deal said Georgia’s program will be tightly regulated and patients will have to be granted documentation from physicians before receiving cards from the state.

Peake and other advocates contend the state should legalize and regulate the in-state cultivation of cannabis oil to remove any risk.

Still, Deal said, tearing up, “this certainly touched my heart, and I’m pleased today we’re going to make a difference.”

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4 comments

  1. When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let’s have the compassion to allow them to have it.

    Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine.

    Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live.

    Support Medical Marijuana Now!

    “[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997

    “[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications.” — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001

    “[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate.” — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998

    “Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003

    “The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses’ Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine.” — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995

    “[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.” — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, “Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis,” 1995

    “When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003

  2. About 3years ago I found out that I have MS,it really had me thinking of death,not I just take my Medicines and wait on my Disability to get approved,but it’s Hard out here in America the land of the Free.I’m going to my doctor’s even though my bill is almost 20.000$,I don’t have a job so I couldn’t buy Medical Marijuana even if it does help all this Pain. THANKS ANYWAY,,, DARREN HENDERSON.

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