Even with the expansion, there is still no way for registered medical marijuana patients in Georgia to legally obtain medical marijuana.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 65 into law last week, expanding the state’s medical marijuana program to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and intractable pain as qualifying conditions.
The new law will take effect July 1, and is expected to double the number of Georgians who will have legal access to medical marijuana.
“While there are now almost over 4,000 people on the registry now, I’m fully expecting with adding PTSD and chronic pain, we should potentially get to 10,000 Georgians on the list here within the next year,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, the bill’s sponsor.
Before reaching Gov. Deal’s desk, HB 65 had caused some conflict among state lawmakers. The bill was approved by the Legislature on the last day of the 2018 legislative session that lasted into the night, as Senate leadership had up until then refused to act on the House-approved bill.
House Rep. David Clark, a Republican representing Buford and supporter of the bill, chastised the President of the Senate Casey Cagle for the Senate’s failure to initially consider the measure, calling him “corrupt” and accusing him of “playing games.”
“If you can’t lead the Senate, then you sure can’t lead a state,” said Clark, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan who believes medical cannabis could be beneficial for veterans. “There are lives at stake. This isn’t a game. … People are dying.”
After the Senate voted 38-14 to pass HB 65, Cagle, the leading candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor of the state, in a press release indicated he had supported the measure all along.
“We must make certain that government does not stand in the way of what patients and their physicians agree will improve their quality of life,” said Cagle. “I fully support implementing a safe, secure, and reliable in-state system for patients to access low THC medical cannabis oil. This legislation will provide a path to make that a reality. It also erases politics from the process that qualifies conditions for doctors to prescribe this medication.”
Georgia’s Limited Medical Marijuana Program
Georgia has had in place a highly restrictive medical marijuana law since 2015. Under the law, patients who have obtained a recommendation from a licensed physician and registered with the state are legally allowed to possess and use up to 20 ounces of cannabis oils containing no more than 5 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
PTSD and intractable pain will soon join eight other conditions – including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cancer, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders, and sickle cell disease – that the program has qualified for low-THC medical marijuana.
Despite the law permitting possession and use of medical cannabis, the state’s program remains unworkable for patients. Growing, buying, and distributing medical marijuana is still against state law, leaving patients with no way to legally obtain it.
A bill that would have legalized harvesting cannabis oil in Georgia failed during this year’s session.