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Georgia House votes to expand medical marijuana registry

Geogia House members hear a pitch on Wednesday from state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, to expand the state’s medical marijuana registry.
Geogia House members hear a pitch on Wednesday from state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, to expand the state’s medical marijuana registry. mlee@macon.com

The state House has passed a bill that would open Georgia’s medical marijuana registry to more patients, but the next step looks likely to be a showdown with a narrower state Senate bill.

“This is an expansion of what has been so far a very successful program allowing more hurting Georgians to potentially benefit from medical cannabis oil,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, just before the state House passed his House Bill 65 by a vote of 165-6.

It would open the state registry to people who have 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. People could also join the registry earlier in the course of treatment for cancer; Lou Gehrig's disease, also known as ALS; multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; and sickle cell disease.

The state Senate wants to expand the registry only to people who have autism. They also want to cut the THC cap in Georgia-legal medical cannabis from 5 percent to 3 percent. THC is the main chemical in cannabis that causes a high. The state House and Senate must come to agreement if medical cannabis law is to be changed this year.

As of late February, more than 1,300 active patients were on the registry for diagnoses such as severe seizure disorders. However, Georgia patients often have a hard time getting medical marijuana oil. More than half the states have authorized medical or recreational cannabis cultivation, despite the federal ban. Georgia is not among them.

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.

Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee

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