In 2015 Georgia passed a low-THC medical cannabis law (less than 5% THC). Georgia is one of 16 states that have legalized medical cannabis in this limited form. The legislation created a medical marijuana program for people diagnosed with one or more conditions from a very short list, and allows patients to possess up to 20 ounces of medical marijuana oil. Qualifying conditions include: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, cancer, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorder, and sickle cell disease.
Georgia’s medical marijuana law does not allow home cultivation, does not include business licenses for medical marijuana production or distribution, and therefore is largely unhelpful to suffering patients in Georgia. The program is basically built on the principle that patients will have to still acquire cannabis from the unregulated market, which involves a crime being committed, or they have to travel to a legal state and bring the oil back to Georgia, which is a crime. That’s far from compassionate.
A compromise bill is currently working its way through the Georgia Legislature which would make improvements to Georgia’s law, and is expected to pass next week. Senate Bill 16 would expand Georgia’s medical marijuana program in many ways. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, but falls way short of true compassion. Senate Bill 16 would:
- Add six new qualifying conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome
- Allow use of medical marijuana oil by patients in hospice care
- Remove the one-year residency requirement to become a patient
- Add a 45-day reciprocity window to recognize licensed out of state patients under certain conditions
The bill will help protect more patients, but it still doesn’t solve the legal issue of how patients obtain medicine in the first place. Patients still have to either purchase unregulated cannabis, which makes it very difficult if not impossible to know the THC level (among other things), or the patient has to travel several states over and smuggle the oil back to Georgia. That is ridiculous. The patients of Georgia deserve better. Georgia is a conservative state, so improvements to the program are going to obviously be incremental, but Georgia advocates need to keep pressure on elected officials so that they know that this legislation is a stepping stone, and by no means a ‘permanent fix.’