Victory for supporters of SB 16
By Melanie Ruberti
LaGRANGE – Colin Jackson’s birthday came one day early this year – though the soon-to-be nine-year-old boy may not realize it.
The young boy, whom suffers from a severe form of Autism, can legally take cannabis oil in the state of Georgia.
Autism was one of six disorders added to the state’s official medical marijuana registry under SB 16.
The measure was voted on in the state Senate early Thursday afternoon – and passed with flying colors.
Colin’s dad, Dale Jackson, was on the chamber floor as legislators cast their votes. Jackson has been anticipating this day for three, long, hard-fought years.
“I sprinted down to the floor of the Senate as soon as Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan) finished his argument in support of SB 16,” Jackson said. “The vote wasn’t even close … Without a doubt, this was the most lopsided vote of the session … 46 ‘yay’ and – 6 ‘nay.’”
The amendment added Autism, AIDS, Alzheimer’s Disease, Peripheral Neuropathy, Tourette’s Syndrome and patients with diseases in hospice care facilities to the medicinal marijuana registry.
SB 16 will keep the THC levels in the cannabis oil at 5 percent.
The legislation also mandates all doctors in Georgia officially report the strength and dosage of cannabis oil their patients are taking to treat their illnesses.
SB 16 includes a “reciprocity agreement” which allows people with medical marijuana cards from other states to continue taking the oil while in Georgia – as long as they follow state guidelines. But there is a time limit. After 45 days, patients must either return home or apply for a medical marijuana card in Georgia.
“This is a huge victory for the parents and patients of Georgia,” Jackson said. “… This was more than I hoped for … I never thought there would be an opportunity to add six new conditions this year.
“… The passage of SB 16 brings peace of mind for my wife and the thousands of autistic parents around the state who have been hesitant to try cannabis oil,” he said.
Colin started taking cannabis oil a year ago. Jackson and his wife, Sarah, have seen vast improvements in their son within those 365 days. Colin’s achievements include saying his first word (“Mama”), feeding himself, making eye contact, regular sleeping habits and more.
Now, he will be able to continue his daily regimen of medicinal marijuana.
The passage of SB 16 was also a historic moment, Jackson said.
“For once, Georgia is leading the nation in policy,” he explained. “… Georgia became only the third state to legally cover Autism in their medicinal marijuana registry. Delaware and Pennsylvania are the other two states.
“I think this is something that should be celebrated,” Jackson continued. “Everything that happened today (Thursday) is a direct correlation to the dozens of parents who came to the Capitol and lobbied for Autism.”
While the taste of victory is sweet, Jackson said his days lobbying for medicinal marijuana are not over.
Next year, he and other families will focus on adding a referendum and allow citizens to vote on a state regulated marijuana cultivation program. If passed, it will allow patients on the medical marijuana registry to openly purchase cannabis oil without breaking state and federal laws.
For now, Jackson and his family will rejoice in their hard fought victory – and celebrate the boy who inspired it all.
“Friday is Colin’s birthday, but we are going to have a party for him this Sunday,” Jackson said. “Needless to say, we will have much more than his birthday to celebrate.”
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.