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Lawmakers strike deal on medical cannabis expansion

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.

ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers will soon hear a compromise medical cannabis bill that would open the state’s liquid medical cannabis registry to patients with six new diagnoses.

The diagnoses that would be added are: “severe” autism for people under the age of 18; autism for people ages 18 or older; severe or end-stage cases of Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS or peripheral neuropathy; severe Tourette’s syndrome; or any case of the painful skin disease epidermolysis bullosa. It would also open the registry to people in hospice programs.

“We’re adding six conditions. That’s a positive thing,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.

It’s a step back from his House Bill 65, which got House support. That measure would also have opened the registry to people who have HIV or autoimmune disease. Peake’s even broader original proposal in January included intractable pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state Senate passed a bill that added only autism, and it would have cut the maximum THC level in Georgia-legal medical cannabis oil from 5 percent to 3 percent.

The compromise bill would leave the THC cap at 5 percent. THC is the main compound in marijuana that causes a high.

State Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, sponsored the Senate’s bill and said he is confident his Senate colleagues will agree to 5 percent THC and the list of conditions. Key to that, he said, is another part of the compromise bill: Doctors who are registered to work with medical cannabis patients will be required to report their patients’ THC doses.

Doctors already report basic information to the state, including their patients’ diagnoses, four times per year. That reporting requirement would be cut to twice a year under the compromise.

The compromise would also require Georgia to recognize other states’ medical cannabis cards, but only for products and conditions authorized in Georgia.

The more than 1,3000 active patients on Georgia’s medical cannabis registry can posses a liquid made from marijuana for diagnoses such as severe seizure disorders.

The compromise is expected to be heard at a full House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee meeting on Friday morning, bypassing a proposed Thursday subcommittee hearing.

Georgia law does not permit medical cannabis cultivation. More than half the states allow recreational or medical cannabis cultivation, despite a federal ban.

Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee

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