8 new disorders added to medical marijuana proposal

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 3, 2017

By Melanie Ruberti


 ATLANTA –  A new proposal to amend the current state medical marijuana law, also known as Hayleigh’s Hope Act, is on its way to the Senate.

The measure, known as HB 65, passed out of the House on Wednesday. It adds eight more disorders to the state’s registry list of people legally allowed to use cannabis oil. Those disorders include: Tourette’s Syndrome, Autism, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, AIDS, Autoimmune Diseases and Peripheral Neuropathy.

The proposal also changed the language regarding the use of cannabis oil by patients only at the end stage of their disease, such as cancer. Under the new amendment, those patients would be added to the state registry earlier in their diagnosis.

HB 65 also adds a new, potentially controversial measure that would allow Georgia officials to recognize medical marijuana cards legally issued in other states.

“It has a reciprocity clause … If someone in Minnesota has a card, they can come to Georgia and still be able to use their medical marijuana legally,” explained Dale Jackson, a local cannabis oil advocate. “But the proposal does not say people can just come to Georgia and smoke pot. In Georgia, you can only use cannabis oil (legally) with a THC level of 5 percent and lower. If, for instance, the state of California allows people to use medical marijuana with a higher THC level, if they come here, those people would have to adhere to Georgia’s laws and only use cannabis oil at 5 percent.

“That proposal is a big deal because many states haven’t recognized other states medical marijuana cards,” Jackson continued. “It would be great if we can get that passed in the bill.”

HB 65 is authored by Rep. Allen Peak, R-Macon. A similar proposal, SB 16, authored by Senator Ben Watson, R-Savannah, passed out of the Senate a few weeks ago. That measure added Autism to the list of registered disorders, but lowered the legal THC level from 5 percent to 3 percent.

Despite the differences in each legislation, Jackson feels optimistic a new – and better – amendment will pass this year.

“We (Jackson and other families) do not support SB 16, although it is encouraging the senate has offered up some sort of legislation,” he said. “We do feel like something is going to pass. But we want to avoid a last minute conference by a committee who then ‘guts’ the proposal. That is what we faced last year and we (Jackson and families) turned down the bill at the last minute. My objective is to get the final language nailed down now – rather than later.”

Jackson believes if HB 65 passes, it will allow more opportunities for parents legally using cannabis oil to help children and loved ones.

“Most importantly, the expansion of the conditions (disorders on state registry list) will lead to cultivation labs in Georgia down the road,” Jackson stated. “Right now, the official registry only has 1,300 patients on it because the list is so restrictive. But with more people legally allowed to use cannabis oil on the list, it will hopefully mean real access to patients here in Georgia.”

Currently under Hayleigh’s Hope Act or HB1, patients with certain disorder can obtain a registry card and legally use medicinal marijuana. But it is still illegal for people to purchase the cannabis oil and bring it across state lines.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.