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Georgia House panel OKs broader medical cannabis access

Marijuana: Uncertain medicine

Marijuana’s effects can vary from person to person, and scientists are not quite sure what to make of the common distinction users and growers make between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.
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Marijuana’s effects can vary from person to person, and scientists are not quite sure what to make of the common distinction users and growers make between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.

Georgians who have autism, intractable pain or a handful of other diagnoses would be allowed to posses medical cannabis under a bill moving through the state House.

The state House Medical Cannabis Working Group on Wednesday unanimously endorsed the idea of allowing medical cannabis possession by people with those diagnoses as well as AIDS or HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, Tourette’s syndrome or people in hospice.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, chairs the working group and wrote House Bill 65, which will be the vehicle for their recommendations.

“I thought today was very productive,” said Peake, after the meeting. The working group is a special committee formed this year to work on the complexities of getting a substance to Georgians that’s prohibited under federal law. The roughly 1,200 Georgians on the state medical cannabis registry for diagnoses like severe seizure disorders can posses a liquid made from medical cannabis, though there is no legal way to obtain it. The working group also recommended that people with medical cannabis cards from other states should be allowed to posses that liquid.

Dr. Paige Ward, an Augusta pediatrician, told the working group that she gives her 17-year-old son Cannon medical cannabis for severe symptoms of autism.

She said his violent behaviors that left her bruised have stopped since she added cannabis to his treatments.

“He’s not drugged, he’s not high, he’s not asleep, he’s my boy,” Ward said.

A separate Senate bill would add only autism to the list of cannabis-eligible diagnoses in Georgia and it also cuts the amount of THC allowed in Georgia medical cannabis.

At a hearing on Senate Bill 16, some senators said they are uncomfortable with the lack of scientific evidence on marijuana’s effect on patients.

Peake said he understands some doctors’ hesitation to endorse medical cannabis due to the lack of studies.

“But the anecdotal real world evidence ... is overwhelming,” Peake said.

If the state House and Senate pass different bills, a compromise may be worked out in a conference committee.

Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee

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