Last year, the state legislature passed a law making it legal for residents suffering from one of eight illnesses who have joined the state medical marijuana registry to possess an oil derived from marijuana for medical purposes. However, with no production of medical cannabis in Georgia, patients have to travel out-of-state to acquire it. All that may soon change if Macon Rep. Allen Peake has his way.
Peake recently filed House Bill 722, a proposal that aims to expand on the current medical marijuana law that he signed last year.
Expanding the Diseases and Conditions Currently Covered By the Law
Medical marijuana is widely recognized as an effective treatment of symptoms associated with many illnesses. The current law allows for patients suffering from the following ailments to have the liquid medical marijuana:
- Cancer, during end-stage or when treatment produces recalcitrant nausea, wasting illness and vomiting
- Seizure disorders related to epilepsy or head injuries
- Severe or end-stage ALS
- Severe or end-stage Parkinson's disease
- Severe or end-stage sickle cell disease
- Severe or end-stage multiple sclerosis
- Mitochondrial disease
- Crohn's disease
Peake’s proposed bill would see the list increased from eight eligible illnesses to at least 17, including:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Tourette's syndrome
- Terminal illness with a life expectancy of under one year, where severe pain nausea and severe wasting are present
- Epidermolysis bullosa
- Intractable pain
- Autism spectrum disorder
Peake’s crusade to bring medical marijuana to patients who need it goes beyond the expansion of eligible illnesses. His bill would also allow the state to issue up to six licenses for medical cannabis cultivators in Georgia.
The current need to go out of state to access medical marijuana makes it difficult for patients to access it and also places them on questionable legal ground. The enforcement of federal laws banning marijuana has been relaxed, particularly in states that have a tight medical marijuana program. The federal government has nevertheless instructed states to keep their medical cannabis within their borders.
The proposed bill has been met with a great deal of support. Peake quickly got over 100 co-signers for the bill, which is more than enough to pass it out of the House. Additionally, a recent poll conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution indicated that the majority of Georgians support it.
The support, however, is not unanimous. Gov. Nathan Deal has been raising questions about the state's ability to control it, while several sheriffs, district attorneys and the director of the GBI have expressed concerns that some growers might use the medical license as a cover to grow or sell recreational marijuana illegally.
According to Peake, the bill closely mirrors Minnesota's medical marijuana law. He states that greenhouses in Minnesota have tighter security than casinos and that growers there must track every cannabis seed, plant, and bottle of medicine. He anticipates introducing a similar system in Georgia in the hopes that this will satisfy the law enforcement community.
Dedicated to the Cause
Peake has supported the idea of growing medical marijuana in Georgia since 2014. He believes in this so strongly that he has reportedly defied current laws by bringing medical marijuana from other states back to patients in Georgia as a form of civil disobedience.
If the bill is passed, Peake hopes that locally grown medical marijuana could be available for patients by July 1, 2017.