Georgia is About to Encourage Parents of Sick Children to Become Drug Traffickers

georgia-medical-marijuanaOn Wednesday the Georgia Senate Health Committee approved a hotly debated medical marijuana bill with changes that have the potential to land desperate parents of sick children in prison.

medical-marijuanaHouse Bill 885, also known as Haleigh’s Hope Act, is already one of the most restrictive medical marijuana bills ever written. If passed it is supposed to allow teaching hospitals in Georgia to establish medical marijuana study programs and dispense cannabis extracts (no herb) to cancer, glaucoma and seizure patients. The bill’s sponsor, state representative Allen Peake (R-Macon), had envisioned a program run by university hospitals dispensing high-CBD tinctures or pills made from marijuana that the universities would grow themselves. Despite vocal input from Georgia’s marijuana legalization organizations from the very beginning, Rep. Peake never seriously considered the fact that only in some strange, alternate universe would a University risk having all of their federal funding revoked for violating federal law by growing acres of plants that the federal government considers to be among the most dangerous substances on the planet.

A Real Predicament

When none of Georgia’s medical colleges stepped forward to place their heads on the chopping block Rep. Peake tried to negotiate a privately-run nonprofit dispensary system, but since nobody under the Gold Dome actually wants this medical marijuana bill to provide anyone access to medical marijuana he wasn’t taken seriously. The most recent version of the bill would encourage people to travel out of state (most likely to Colorado) and bring medical marijuana back with them, despite the fact that doing so violates not just federal law but the laws of every state line crossed with cannabis, no matter what form it exists in.

The truth is,  Georgia politicians have felt comfortable piling on to HB 885 because they know it has such a low chance of actually making marijuana available to Georgia citizens that the risk for political blowback is negligible. Most marijuana activists in Georgia have acknowledged the extremely limited scope of the bill as written, but have supported it anyway because they have hoped that it would be a stepping stone to a more reasonable medical marijuana law in the future. What we have instead is a medical marijuana bill that doesn’t really provide anyone access to marijuana, but says if you are able to smuggle your child’s medication to Georgia without getting caught then you get to keep it.

The biggest loser with Haleigh’s Hope Act: Haliegh

Haleigh Cox from Georgia medical marijuana
Haleigh Cox, the 4-year-old HB885 is named after, is moving to Colorado to get the life-saving cannabis she can’t obtain at home.

Before making it out of the Senate Health Committee HB885 was tied to a second bill, an autism insurance bill introduced by Sen. Renee Unterman (R- Gwinnett). Sen. Unterman had previously threatened to hold the medical marijuana bill hostage in order to get her legislation passed and that’s just what she’s done by tying it to her bill, a bill that the House had previously refused to give any attention to.

Meanwhile, as politicians play their political games Janea Cox says she is forced to flee the state for her daughter’s life. Haleigh Cox, the 4-year-old girl HB885 is named after, is moving to Colorado today in order to obtain the medication she so desperately needs. “Haleigh doesn’t have much longer,” Cox said. “My child’s dying from seizure medications, so we have to get this medicine. Haleigh has no other options at this point.”

When asked about how she felt about smuggling cannabis across state lines Cox said “The parents can make the decision whether they want to bring it over state lines or not. I think that’s the best way to do it because we’re all on our last resort, and we need the option to be able to try it. And if that’s the way it needs to be, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Georgia House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill

Georgia medical marijuana billThe Georgia House of Representatives has passed a limited-access medical marijuana bill created to bring relief to children and adults suffering from seizure disorders.

HB 885, or Haleigh’s Hope Act, would provide access to CBD-rich medical marijuana extracts for children suffering from a severe seizure disorder known as Dravet Syndrome. “Our bill would be the most restrictive medical marijuana bill in the nation” Rep. Allen Peake said while presenting the bill to the full House.

The bill will now move to the Senate where it is expected to pass with few changes. If passed, the law would establish a medical marijuana research program run by Georgia research hospitals. The CBD-rich marijuana would either be grown by the Universities themselves or purchased from the University of Mississippi, where researchers have grown and distributed medical marijuana for more than 30 years under a Federal program. For more information about medical marijuana in Georgia see our previous post.

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Georgia Likely to become the First Southern State to Legalize Medical Marijuana

georgia-medical-marijuanaAnother state will likely soon move one step closer to legitimizing the decades of scientific research behind the medical use of cannabis. House Bill 885, also known as Haleigh’s Hope Act, would revive a 30 year-old medical marijuana law in Georgia that was never fully enacted. HB 885 passed the House Health Committee with a unanimous on Wednesday and is expected to receive a warm welcome in the full House.

In 1982 Georgia passed one of the nation’s first medical marijuana laws, a law that required the approval of a medical review board that was never convened. The law was originally intended to relieve the suffering of cancer and glaucoma patients. Rather than replace the original Georgia medical marijuana law, HB 885 instead modifies the original law by turning it into a research program that will be run by Georgia universities. In addition, the new bill will expand the medical conditions that are approved for medical marijuana use by adding seizure disorders.

Key provisions of Georgia’s proposed medical marijuana law

  • Establishes a state-sponsored program for the investigational use of cannabis and its derivatives.
  • Participation is strictly limited to patients suffering from three conditions:
    • Cancer patients who have had adverse reactions to chemotherapy or radiation.
    • Glaucoma patients who do not respond to treatment by “conventional controlled substances”.
    • Seizure disorder patients
  • Patients will receive their medical marijuana from academic medical centers who agree to conduct clinical trials.
  • Medical marijuana would not be dispensed in smokeable form. Patients would instead be given drops or pills that have high concentrations of Cannabidiol (CBD), one of at least 60 cannabinoids that are present in cannabis.
  • Georgia medical marijuana would either be grown by (and obtained from) the University of Mississippi’s medical marijuana program, or by the academic medical centers themselves.
  • After testing by the academic medical center, medical marijuana would be turned over to the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, to be distributed back to the University as-needed.

Growing medical marijuana in Georgia

Many are questioning the feasibility of assigning the task of growing marijuana to academic institutions in Georgia. Whether growing marijuana, which is against federal law, would endanger federal funding for these institutions is anyone’s guess, and so far none of Georgia’s academic hospitals have committed to joining the program.

Under the proposed bill, which is expected to pass both the Senate and the Governor’s desk, only five universities would be eligible to apply for participation in Georgia’s medical marijuana program. Those are Georgia Regents University, the University of Georgia, Emory University, Mercer University and Morehouse College.

More information about medical marijuana in Georgia

Georgia Children’s Hospital Endorses Medical Marijuana Bill

Children's Healthcare of AtlantaChildren’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the premier pediatric hospital systems in the southeastern U.S., announced Tuesday that they would be able to support a plan by State Representative Allen Peake (R-Macon) to introduce a medical marijuana bill. While not a rousing endorsement of medical marijuana, Children’s says they are in support of the bill because of the research opportunities that will come along with it.

In a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Children’s said “there has not been enough evidence-based research around the use of (cannabis oil) studying its safety and tolerability in children with seizure disorders and thus should not be used generally.” However, they said they were “in support of legislation that would allow clinical research by academic institutions to further investigate this compound for the treatment of intractable seizures in children.”

Rep. Peake was expected to introduce his bill today but that got postponed when snow started falling and the House of Representatives adjourned until 1:00 PM Wednesday. It is expected that Rep. Peake’s bill will place a heavy emphasis on medical marijuana in the form of CBD drops and tinctures.

Florida Supreme Court Clears Way for Medical Marijuana

Florida medical marijuanaIn a 4-3 decision the Florida Supreme Court announced today that they have approved the wording that will appear on the November ballot asking Florida voters if they want a constitutional amendment that would allow patients to consume medical marijuana.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has led the fight to challenge the ballot language, arguing that it would mislead voters. Patient advocacy group United For Change recently had over 700,000 petition signatures certified by the Board of Elections. Prominent Florida Attorney John Morgan played a large part in the effort, footing most of the estimated $4 million bill it took to get the question on the ballot.

The fight for medical marijuana in Florida has been hotly contested by Republicans who say the issue is a political ploy by democrats to give Charlie Crist a boost in the Governor’s race. The latest polling shows Crist, who is a long-time friend of Morgan’s, essentially tied with incumbent Governor Rick Scott.

Document Download: Full text of the Supreme Court decision (pdf)

Two states in the Deep South consider legislation to ‘soften’ marijuana laws

Marijuana legalization in Texas and LouisianaThe Raw Story reports that Republican governors in Texas and Louisiana have issued statements softening their stance on marijuana use and punishment.

On Thursday, Texas Governor Rick Perry told an international panel on drug legalization at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that “I have begun to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization.”

Meanwhile Governor Bobby Jindal told the New Orleans Times-Picayune last Wednesday that he would be “open” to the idea of legalizing medical marijuana under strict, limited circumstances.

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Georgia Lawmakers Introduce Medical Marijuana Legislation

Georgia medical marijuana marchMedical marijuana proponents in Georgia are feeling close to victory as several influential lawmakers have come out of the woodwork at the beginning of the 2014 legislative session in favor of medical marijuana.

From WeedBiz:

Medical marijuana in Georgia got a big push forward today from state representative Allen Peake (R-Macon), who announced that he was drafting a bill to legalize medical marijuana for limited uses.

This is strictly how do we help those citizens that are in critical or terminal conditions who can have their pain and suffering relieved by proper use, proper administration by medicinal physical of medical marijuana- State Rep. Allen Peak

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Medical Marijuana Advocates in Florida Meet Ballot Goal

Medical marijuana in FloridaThe only thing keeping Florida voters from being able to say whether or not they want an amendment to the state constitution that would legalize medical marijuana is the Florida Supreme Court. A petition campaign led by the patient advocacy group United for Care and bankrolled by noted Florida attorney John Morgan has been certified by state election officials.

The Florida Supreme Court could still reject the ballot language — and any vote along with it — but organizers expressed jubilation Friday that an expensive, last-minute push at least fulfilled the signature requirements for citizen-initiated amendments.

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