The two Georgia lawmakers behind two different medical cannabis expansion plans say they’re in talks, as the annual legislative session reaches its closing days.
As long as a month ago, some lawmakers predicted some kind of showdown or compromise over the two bills.
Under a bill by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, Georgia’s medical cannabis oil registry would be opened to patients who have several new diagnoses. Those diagnoses are: AIDS or HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, autoimmune disease, the painful skin disease epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s syndrome, or those who are in a hospice program. It also would open the registry earlier in the course of treatment to people who have cancer; Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; or sickle cell disease.
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That bill would open the registry to people who have autism. It would also cut the amount of THC that’s allowed in cannabis oil in Georgia from 5 percent to 3 percent. THC is the main chemical in marijuana that causes a high.
Patients and caregivers have testified that the higher levels of THC can bring relief that 3 percent cannot. Peake said medical marijuana so far has not caused public health problems, and so the registry should be expanded and the THC cap should remain at 5 percent. But Watson and others are uncomfortable with the lack of scientific studies on cannnabis, THC and sickness.
“We are working to find a resolution,” Peake said. Watson also said that the two are working on something.
The annual legislative session is scheduled to end on March 30.
Georgia’s medical cannabis registry had more than 1,300 active patients at the end of February. With a medical cannabis card, those patients are allowed to posses a liquid made from cannabis. About 44 percent of the registry patients take medical marijuana for severe seizure disorders.
He supports cultivation so that Georgians can more easily get a substance that’s still illegal under federal law. Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana and another 20 have medical programs that include some kind of workable cannabis cultivation or distribution systems. But the federal ban makes both cannabis companies and Georgia consumers wary of shipping products across state lines.
And the federal ban means that even cannabis programs authorized by states are technically illegal, in the eyes of Washington, D.C.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee