Pubdate: Thu, 27 Feb 2014
Source: Macon Telegraph (GA)
Copyright: 2014 The Macon Telegraph Publishing Company
Author: Maggie Lee


ATLANTA -- A bill that would legalize access to a cannabis-derived 
medicine in Georgia passed its first vote Wednesday, with a new 
provision for sourcing the illegal plant: in-state cannabis cultivation.

It passed via unanimous voice vote in the House Health and Human 
Services Committee on Wednesday night.

"We've tried to address the access problem that we clearly have by 
providing a cultivation option" at Georgia's five medical research 
universities, state Rep. Allen Peake, sponsor of House Bill 885, said 
of his hours-old edits.

That's meant to get around a major roadblock to his bill: how to find 
marijuana to synthesize the liquid that provides some children relief 
from severe seizure disorders. In Colorado, where cannabis is legal, 
several companies manufacture such medicine, but they cannot export 
to other states.

"Twenty other states allow medical marijuana," said Peake, R-Macon, 
and each of them grows it in state.

The "heart and intent" of the bill is to provide a safe, 
doctor-supervised seizure treatment option to Georgia's families, Peake said.

Monroe County 4-year-old Haleigh Cox inspired his bill. She suffers 
from sometimes more than 100 seizures a day. The Cox family is 
looking to Colorado children who they say are getting relief from a 
key cannabis-derived compound, cannabidiol, or CBD.

The British government has approved a high-CBD liquid medicine, 
though the United States has not.

"I don't want a bill that gives false hopes," said state Rep. Sharon 
Cooper, R-Marietta, chair of the committee, pointing out that 
cannabis is still not legal under federal law.

Cooper said as far as her research shows, no academic research 
institute can take something that is not FDA-approved and use it on 
humans without jeopardizing federal funding.

"No matter what this bill does, I will encourage children to apply 
for this expanded ... testing" in the U.S. of the vetted British 
medicine, Cooper said. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

Under the bill, the only five Georgia universities that could apply 
to grow and synthesize high-CBD liquid medical cannabis are Georgia 
Regents and the University of Georgia, plus Emory, Morehouse and 
Mercer universities. No school would be obliged to do medical 
marijuana work, but they would have the option.

Peake said Morehouse and Mercer have expressed interest if it becomes 
legal under state law. Both are private schools.

State Rep. Mickey Channell, R-Greensboro, said the bill isn't 
perfect, "but we need to act on this." It won't extend every child's 
life, he said, but it will improve "their quality of life while 
they're still with us."

Nearly half the state House signed the original version of Peake's 
bill in January, which spoke only to liquid medicine for treating 
severe seizure disorders, not the cultivation of cannabis.
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