Pubdate: Mon, 15 Aug 2016
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2016 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Kristina Torres


Feds Keep Marijuana on the List of Most Dangerous Drugs.

Federal officials' announcement last week to keep marijuana on the 
list of most dangerous drugs has stunned Georgia advocates, who 
called it "insane" and said it would hurt families trying to access a 
form of medical marijuana legally allowed here.

"The impact on Georgia's families could be huge, as it could further 
delay getting access to safe, lab-tested product here in Georgia," 
said Blaine Cloud, who with his wife, Shannon, have been at the 
forefront of an organized push by parents to expand Georgia's 
year-old medical marijuana law.

The law allows patients and, in the case of children, families who 
register with the state to possess up to 20 ounces of a limited form 
of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of eight specific illnesses, 
including cancer, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. As of last month, 
the registry had 830 people on it.

But it's up to patients how to get the drug here, a proposition made 
more fraught because federal law bans interstate transport of any 
form of the drug. The state law does not allow in-state growing of 
the drug for medical purposes or allow some manufacturers to ship it 
here, including for legal use of the oil.

Advocates tried earlier this year to convince lawmakers to ease that 
restriction, but to no avail. A big sticking point for both 
policymakers and law enforcement officials in Georgia is the federal 
classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous 
class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and addiction, and no 
accepted medical uses. Many Georgia officials feel that federal 
classification needs to change before the state's law can be expanded.

"Currently, parents and patients are having to either travel across 
the country and smuggle their medicine back home several times a year 
or buy marijuana here illegally and make their own oil in their 
kitchens, with no idea whether it's safe," Cloud said.

While marijuana continues to be classified by the U.S. Drug 
Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I drug, federal officials 
said they would now allow more research into the drug's medical uses 
and expand the number of places allowed to grow marijuana by the 
National Institute on Drug Abuse for research purposes.

"We definitely applaud the NIDA decision to lift the monopoly on 
marijuana available for research, so hopefully more research can be 
done in the future," Cloud said. "But with it still listed as 
Schedule I, the many departmental approvals needed and barriers in 
place are still a tremendous obstacle to anyone wanting to do that 
research here in the U.S."

"Until we have a locally available, safe, lab-tested product that our 
doctors can work with, then Georgians will continue to suffer," Cloud said.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who has resisted expansion of the state's medical 
marijuana law, has backed the use of clinical trials in Georgia to 
study cannabis oil's effect on children suffering from seizure disorders.

The Medical College of Georgia's Dr. Yong Park said last month that 
researchers were encouraged by early results in Georgia that involved 
a specific drug, the cannabis-derived oil Epidiolex. Other results 
are pending, but of 30 patients who took the drug for at least four 
months, 63 percent saw a reduction in severe seizures. And six 
patients - about 20 percent - appeared to be seizure-free.

Georgia state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, who authored Georgia's 
medical marijuana law, called the federal decision "insane" and said 
it "now becomes a full-on 'state's rights' issue, and we as Georgia 
leaders must be willing to address the proper way to provide safe, 
lab-tested medical cannabis for our citizens."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom