In some places, getting marijuana-related legislation passed is easier than others – and in Georgia it’s definitely taken some time to get even the most restrictive medical marijuana bill passed and signed into law. A couple of years ago they made cannabis oil (with a maximum THC content of 5%) a legal option for patients suffering from epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, among other conditions. However, it did not provide a legal way for these patients to access the medicine they now have permission to use.
This year there was hope that a medical marijuana bill could be passed that would expand access to medical marijuana, and maybe even provide a legal in-state production system that would supply patients, rather than forcing them to purchase the cannabis oil illegally. Unfortunately, the two bills that were introduced didn’t come close to providing real access to medical cannabis – but they did aim to make a few changes.
The bill introduced to the senate was particularly unpopular among activists, as it aimed to turn the current 5% THC limit to 3% – something activists and advocates saw as taking a step backwards, even if the bill also adds autism to the list of qualifying conditions. Slightly more popular, the bill introduced to the House was expected to add a handful of new conditions to the list including HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and autism – but still provided no route to legally access the medicine once it is recommended.
Since both bills had been passed on to the other chamber, and both stood a chance of passing, the creators of the bills, Representative Allen Peake and Senator Ben Watson, got together to come to a compromise that they could both live with. With the legislative session coming to an end, they knew they needed to act quickly in order to get something passed at all. In practically no time at all, they have managed to come to an agreement, and a new senate bill, or a revised version of the current one, will be headed for a vote soon enough and is likely to pass.
The new bill will allow the state to keep the 5% THC cap – which was the biggest concern among activists regarding the senate bill previously introduced – and it would also add HIV/AIDS, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome to the list of qualifying conditions. Assuming the rest of the lawmakers agree that this is a fair agreement between the two previous bills and they pass the bill on to the governor, it might not be long before at least one form of medical cannabis is available to many more patients in Georgia.