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Georgia closer to medical marijuana expansion

Dale Jackson shows a video of his eight-year-old autistic son Colin saying his first word after being treated with cannabis oil as state lawmakers look on during a press conference at the Capitol in Atlanta, Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Two years after Georgia legalized medical marijuana, lawmakers are opening the popular program to more patients. The House approved a bill Tuesday that would add six new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis oil, including autism, AIDS, Tourette's syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease.
Dale Jackson shows a video of his eight-year-old autistic son Colin saying his first word after being treated with cannabis oil as state lawmakers look on during a press conference at the Capitol in Atlanta, Tuesday, March 28, 2017. Two years after Georgia legalized medical marijuana, lawmakers are opening the popular program to more patients. The House approved a bill Tuesday that would add six new diagnoses to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis oil, including autism, AIDS, Tourette's syndrome, and Alzheimer's disease. AP

Georgia is a step closer to expanding the state’s medical marijuana registry to patients who have six new diagnoses or who are in hospice.

“While this bill does not go as far as many of us would like, it does add six more conditions to the already successful program in our current law and this will allow many more hurting Georgians to benefit from medical cannabis oil as an option,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, presenting Senate Bill 16 to the House on Tuesday. The House approved it on Tuesday by a vote of 167-4.

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.

Georgia’s medical marijuana registry had more than 1,300 active patients at the end of February. Signing up entitles Georgians to posses a kind of low-THC liquid made from cannabis for diagnoses like severe seizures. THC is the main chemical in marijuana that causes a high.

The bill is a compromise with the state Senate, which passed a bill which would have added only autism and would have lowered the cap on THC. The state House approved a bill with more diagnoses and left the 5 percent THC cap untouched.

State Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, authored the original Senate Bill 16 and has said he expects the Senate will approve the compromise, which also leaves the THC cap at 5 percent.

Senate approval would send the bill to Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for his review.

Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee

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