Medical marijuana bill passes house

Published 6:32 pm Thursday, March 7, 2019

Earlier this week, the Georgia House approved a medical marijuana oil bill which would allow registered patients to legally purchase the drug in the state.

It was a cause for celebration for local businessman Dale Jackson, who has been an advocate for legal usage of low-THC medical oil for some time. Jackson’s son, Colin, suffers from a severe form of autism, and the oil has proven an effective medication for him.

The bill passed the house by a 123-40 vote and would allow for the growth of medical marijuana, as well as the manufacturing, testing and distribution of the product. The bill will now head to the Senate. Recreational marijuana use would still be illegal in Georgia if the bill passes.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” Jackson said. “For me, it’s hard to comprehend because we’ve never been here before.”

Under current Georgia law, qualified individuals with one of 16 different conditions can possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant. Those conditions include cancer, seizure disorders and Parkinson’s disease. However, it is illegal for those patients to obtain the oil. The bill, if passed in its current format, would grant 10 licenses to grow and manufacture the drug in the state and could create up to 50 retail locations.

Jackson said the licenses would be divided into tier one licenses, or non-restricted licenses, that would be unlimited in manufacturing and space allowed, and tier two licenses, where the amount of oil manufactured and the space allowed would be restricted. Jackson said the bill would only allow indoor growing in a secure facility.

Under the bill, recreational use of marijuana would still be illegal, but opponents of the bill believe this would be a step in that direction. Jackson said that’s untrue.

“One of the most common things I’ve been told for years now is ‘we aren’t against your son having medicine. We are just against it becoming recreational marijuana [use] here in Georgia,’” Jackson said.

“I’ve quite frankly had enough of that.”

Jackson said believing this is a step toward complete marijuana legalization is an “insult” to every legislator in the state.

“Most every legislator has [said] they are never going to support and vote for medical marijuana, so just us having our bill and us obtaining medicine is not going to magically create recreational marijuana,” Jackson said. “The legislators would still have to vote on it, just like they are voting on our bill.”

Jackson and Sheriff James Woodruff were part of a joint study commission that produced a recommendation for the bill. Although not all of what was recommended is included in the current bill structure, Jackson is hopeful it can get through the Senate and have a big impact on families that rely on low-THC oil. 

“We have much more support in the Senate than we’ve ever had,” Jackson said. “

That doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy road, and it’s going to be difficult for some key elements of the bill not to be removed or dramatically changed, but we are very optimistic.”