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A Breakdown of Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Program

Photo Credit: The Odyssey, theodysseyonline.com

By: Christopher Nani

Haliegh’s Hope Act was signed into law on April 16, 2015 creating a low THC oil registry program and brought a limited form of medical marijuana to Georgia. The program allowed qualified individuals to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil containing less than 5% THC oil. To qualify for the program, an individual must be a resident of Georgia and either: (1) an adult with a specified disease in the law; (2) a legal guardian of an adult who has a specified disease in the law; or (3) parents or legal guardians of a minor with a specified disease. Haliegh’s Hope Act originally limited the amount of qualified diseases to only a few but in 2017 and 2018 the legislator expanded the list of medical conditions with SB 16 and HB 65.

The full list of current conditions according to the Georgia Department of Public Health include: Cancer, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Seizure disorders, Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease, Sickle cell disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Autism spectrum disorder, Epidermolysis bullosa, Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, Peripheral neuropathy, Patients in a hospice program, Intractable pain, and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Over the next two months, Georgia representatives will be meeting through the Joint Study Commission on Low THC Medical Oil Access to discuss the future of medical marijuana. Topics include: licensing and dispensing, studying other state initiatives, medical analysis of marijuana and low THC oil, and Georgia growers and access. The meetings have been scheduled by District 67 State Rep. Micah Gravley, co-chair of the Commission. One glaring issue Georgia must address is access to low THC oil. Currently, the law does not address how patients are supposed to purchase or access the oil and merely grants protection from criminal prosecution for possession with a valid registry card.

Although the South is one of the last regions to reform their marijuana policy, Georgia can still be on the forefront to help prevent future injustices like those that happened to the Brill family near Macon Georgia with smart marijuana policy reform.

The Brill family has a 15-year-old son, David, who suffers from severe seizures often multiple times a day. The family has tried prescription drugs before but to no avail. When the couple allowed David to smoke marijuana, his seizures stopped. For 71 days, David did not have any seizures. However, the local sheriff’s department was notified of David’s use and the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) took custody of him placing him in a group home and the parents were charged with reckless conduct.

David’s parents were jailed for six days and David was hospitalized for a week from severe seizures fourteen hours after he was no longer able to medicate. After nine weeks of litigation, David was reunited with his family with a protective order in place between DFCS and the family.

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