ATLANTA, GA — Advocates of legalizing medical marijuana in Georgia say there is little hope that children suffering from epileptic seizures will be able to legally access medical cannabis without first legalizing the domestic cultivation of the plant.
Georgia House Bill 885, authored by Rep. Allen Peake and titled “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” was intended to allow marijuana as a medical treatment under a limited research program, but the bill does not provide for cultivation of the plant in Georgia.
Testimony was given at a hearing on February 10, 2014 by state law enforcement officials that no part of the cannabis plant can legally be imported from Colorado or any other state without violating federal law.
Advocates say domestic cultivation and formulation of the cannabis products is the only answer to saving the lives of children and others who suffer from life threatening diseases.
According to James Bell, director of Georgia C.A.R.E. Project (Campaign for Access, Reform & Education), HB-885 is a flawed bill because sponsors have left out a key provision that could provide the medicine within months of passage, specifically legalization of medical marijuana cultivation in Georgia.
“We supported HB-885 with the hope that the [House Health & Human Services] committee would identify the issues and modify the bill”, said Bell. “We have seen an unwillingness on behalf of the bill’s author to consider any form of legalization. Without this reform the bill is dead!”
Bell points out that lawmakers have looked to states like Colorado for a supply but have refused to offer similar reform measures that could allow legal access in Georgia.
“The committee (HHHS) has not allowed for public input on the bill,” said Bell. “This is a matter of life or death for many. We have patients who are ready to testify to the effectiveness of the cannabis medicine. We have doctors who have treated thousands of patients willing to testify. Instead, the committee spends their time debating the color and font size of medical I.D. badges.”
Bell claims many patients in Georgia have resorted to the black-market and risk ten or more years in state or federal prison to get the medicine then need. Underground “collectives” are springing up to provide the medicine to desperate patients. Prohibition is making criminals out of people with disease.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have 21 different legislative models Georgia could be considering. There have been no reports from these states that their policies have harmed anyone.
“Whole Plant Cannabis Therapeutics” have shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of numerous medical conditions as compared to many of the FDA approved chemicals.
Georgia C.A.R.E. recommends that the committee amend HB-885 to allow domestic cultivation and formulation of medical marijuana, expand authorized medical conditions for cannabis treatment and research; and provide immunity from prosecution for medical use of cannabis for those not accepted into the research program.
Georgia C.A.R.E. Project has published a “Guide to Enacting Medical Marijuana in Georgia,” available online here.