Pubdate: Mon, 24 Feb 2014
Source: Macon Telegraph (GA)
Copyright: 2014 The Macon Telegraph Publishing Company
Author: Maggie Lee


ATLANTA -- The hourglass is emptying fast for a medical marijuana bill
that is not scheduled for a vote before a key deadline.

Meanwhile, though, another idea for medicine made with compounds found
in marijuana might move faster than Georgia law.

House Bill 885 by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would legalize
doctor-supervised use of a cannabis-derived liquid medicine for severe

It's had one hearing before the House Health and Human Services
Committee, but no vote had been scheduled as of late Monday afternoon.

When asked if she planned to schedule another hearing, state Rep.
Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, who chairs that committee, declined
comment. Pressed further, she said, "Stay tuned."

The bill needs to get to the House floor by March 3. That's the
Legislature's 30th work day, known as crossover day. If bills don't
pass either the House or the Senate by that day, they go in the trash

Peake has made the bill his personal quest for this year, naming it
for Monroe County 4-year-old Haleigh Cox, who has an epileptic
disorder that can cause more than 100 seizures a day.

"It's getting late in the game, but I'm not hitting the panic button
yet," said Peake. "I'm optimistic we'll get an opportunity to let our
members vote on it."

At a previous hearing, Cooper, a former pediatric nurse, asked
advocates of liquid cannabis medicine if they could look to a compound
tested and approved in the United Kingdom instead of
Colorado-manufactured formulas that are not FDA-approved.

Out in Colorado, there is something else named for Haleigh, Haleigh's
Hope, a liquid derived from cannabis that is high in cannabidiol, a
non-psychoactive compound associated with epilepsy relief.

Of course, Haleigh can't get any of the medicine in Georgia, but its
would-be distributor, Atlanta's Halcyon Organics, is preparing for a
day when it can get to work in Georgia selling medicine that includes
compounds found in marijuana.

"Right now, our goal is to build awareness," said Halcyon CEO Daniel

He said a provision in the new federal farm bill that allows
industrial hemp cultivation "has opened up a place for us to make high
quality medicine. ... We're really close to developing products that
would be legal throughout the country."

Hemp, a plant in the marijuana family, can be grown to be high in

Indeed, the biggest question over Peake's bill so far is where
Georgians could legally acquire cannabis-derived medicine. Washington
state and Colorado are not allowed to export their crops. People in
Georgia are not allowed to grow any at home.

To that end, HB 885's vague language on sourcing is undergoing
revisions. One route could be industrial hemp allowed under federal

Another could be the research-grade marijuana that the federal
government provides to approved researchers.

But if Peake cannot craft a bill that the House Health and Human
Services Committee can approve, he can ask to put it in another committee.

One choice would be the Rules Committee. Normally, it's in charge only
of reading bills already passed by other committees and scheduling
them for floor votes. But it can do both steps -- and sometimes does.

No matter what the route, March 3 is the latest that the Rules
Committee could vote to move it for a full floor vote, and Peake would
have to ask committee leadership to take a few extra administrative
steps to do so.

The bill had more than 80 signatures, nearly half the House, when he
filed it.
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