Georgia lawmakers hope to expand medical cannabis

For years, Georgia lawmakers have debated the merits of medical marijuana and the discussion will continue this year.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, filed two bills Thursday that he hopes will help expand patients' access to medical cannabis, House Bill 65 and House Resolution 36.

"We've introduced a bill that would add six additional conditions to the existing law," explained Peake.

Those conditions are PTSD, Alzheimer's, autism, Tourette's Syndrome, intractable pain and AIDS.

Under current state law, patients with certain conditions can qualify for the state's medical cannabis registry. Those with registry cards can legally possess cannabis oil in Georgia.

Some members of the Senate had similar plans, but that comes at a price. Senate Bill 16 would add autism to the list of qualifying conditions, but it would reduce the percentage of THC allowed in cannabis oil from five to three.

"The side effects of marijuana and THC is significant," explained Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah. "You know, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations and delusions--those are all relating to THC and not the cannabidiol."

Parents like Sebastien Cotte, however, believe the higher THC concentration helps their children with issues like pain and seizures.

"It's totally a step backward and we can't give in on that. So, our point of view, this is non-negotiable. It's a non-starter," said Cotte, whose son, Jagger, suffers from mitochondrial disease. "We would actually start a second wave of medical refugees going to Colorado. There will be people that will not be able to get what we need and will have to move back to Colorado."

One of the reasons many families had to move out of state is because while it is legal to possess cannabis oil in Georgia, it cannot be produced here. That forces patients to move or try to smuggle the products they use into the state.

Governor Nathan Deal and other top state officials have strongly opposed allowing in-state cultivation of marijuana.

Rep. Peake believes it is time for voters to decide. He filed a House Resolution that would put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot.

"The resolution is going to be tough and it takes two-thirds of each chamber to pass and so, that's going to be a tough row to how, but every poll that's every done show 70-75 percent of Georgians want this," Peake said.

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