ATLANTA -- A state House of Representatives committee has approved a proposal to open the Georgia medical cannabis registry to more patients.
People who have seven diagnoses, including autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, HIV or AIDS, would be newly eligible to legally possess a liquid form of medical marijuana under a bill approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee at the state Capitol.
Patients who have one of eight diagnoses including late-stage cancer and severe epilepsy already can join the registry, which was created by state law last year.
The law limits the liquid to a maximum 5 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The bill next moves to the House Rules Committee, which may schedule it for a full House vote. The bill would still need Senate approval before being sent to Gov. Nathan Deal's desk for his signature.
But the bill is a letdown to its author, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. House Bill 722 originally would have authorized in-state cultivation and the manufacture of a low-THC cannabis liquid. But he agreed to cut the cultivation and manufacturing parts in exchange for a bill that has a better chance of getting through the political process.
The impact is "not as much as I would have liked," Peake said.
Though more than half of state House members signed onto Peake's bill when it was filed in January, critics spoke up against it as well.
Law enforcement and some critical lawmakers suggested a legal industry could be used as cover for illegal growers or that it could prove a slippery slope toward more cannabis liberalization. The Georgia Sheriffs' Association opposes growing marijuana in Georgia for medical use. Deal also has said he thinks a Georgia cannabis industry would not be secure and that there would not be enough demand for its products.
Peake is pushing for the drug to be grown in the state under tight regulations because there is now no way for Georgians to get cannabis oil without visiting another state or ordering it from another state, both of which pose possible legal risks. If he is re-elected this year, Peake has pledged to continue pushing for Georgia cultivation.
The Macon Republican legislator also filed a bill this week that would put a straw poll question on November election ballots asking Georgians to endorse the idea of in-state cultivation. He admitted, however, that his House Bill 1077 is a "hail Mary" effort, given that there is probably not enough time for it to move through the legislative process this year.
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