Pubdate: Sat, 28 Mar 2015
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2015 The Associated Press
Note: Paper does not publish LTE's outside its circulation area
Author: Bill Hendrick


ATLANTA (AP) - In an emotional ceremony in his Capitol office, Gov. 
Nathan Deal signed an executive order Friday ordering state agencies 
to start preparations now for the enactment of the state's medical 
marijuana bill.

Deal said Friday he'll sign it into law soon after the current 
legislative session ends April 2 to avoid possible procedural 
conflicts with other pieces of legislation.

He said the bill, sponsored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, will allow 
the use of cannabis oil for treatment of seizure disorders, cancer, 
Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, 
mitochondrial disease, Parkinson's and sickle cell anemia.

The news conference's mood swung from gleeful to sad, especially when 
Mike Hopkins of Covington, who moved his family to Colorado last fall 
so his children could be treated with cannabis oil, stood to express 
gratitude that the bill is soon to become law. Two of his children have died.

"Honestly, I have not had a chance to grieve my children," he said, choking up.

The family has two children left, including one who has seizures like 
those that killed two siblings.

Janea Cox's daughter Haleigh, 5, has intractable epilepsy. Mother and 
daughter have been living for months in Colorado while husband Brian, 
a Johns Creek firefighter, stayed in Georgia. Haleigh and her mom 
will now move back to their Smyrna home.

"This means the world to us," Janea Cox said. "Haleigh's medicine has 
done wonders for her. She says words now. I remember sitting in my 
living room, just crying."

Deal said the executive order requires a medical composite board to 
work with the Department of Public Health to head off possible legal 
problems, since cannabis oil is still illegal under federal law.

When the bill is signed, people with qualifying conditions who 
receive cards from the state and will be allowed to be treated with 
cannabis oil, with no more than 5 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, or 
THC, the psychoactive ingredient, Peake said.

He said Georgia's law, which he described as "sweeping" because it 
covers eight conditions, could benefit up to 500,000 Georgians.

Deal said he wants to be "very careful" to make sure that no more 
Georgians have to move to Colorado for treatment, and those still 
there can come home.

Peake said at least 37 states plus Washington, D. C., have some sort 
of medical marijuana laws, including 12 where only treatment of 
epilepsy is allowed.

"While we want to treat suffering patients and bring children home as 
quickly as possible, it is critical that we take every precaution to 
safeguard private health information and ensure the security of the 
new patient registry," Deal said. "In the coming days, these agencies 
will continue providing updates and further guidance to patients and 
the public."
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