Georgia is one of the 28 states in the US that legalized the use of medical marijuana. And on March 1st, the state passed a bill that would expand its laws, particularly for the list of illnesses and other medical conditions that would be qualified for treatment.
This new development serves as advancement in terms of marijuana laws in the United States, that despite its ban on a federal level, more and more states continue to open themselves up to more possibilities.
House Bill 65
Lawmakers came to agreement with House Bill 65, which now covers the treatment of autism, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, HIV, autoimmune disease, Tourette’s Syndrome, epidermolysis bullosa, and peripheral neuropathy. According to this report, it was state Rep. Allen Peake of Macon that sponsored the said bill, which was backed up by the Senate.
It is made clear, however, that the law is centered on the oil form of cannabis, with very low THC, the component that gives off the psychoactive effects. In 2015, Georgia’s law on medical marijuana allows registered patients to possess as much as 20 ounces of cannabis oil to use as treatment for ailments such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer. And as far as the substance goes, it can only contain up to five percent of THC.
Leaving it Up to the People
Prior to the ruling and passing of House Bill 65, lawmakers in Georgia let their citizens themselves decide on whether or not their marijuana laws should be amended. According to a mid-January report, Rep. Macon first filed the petition to set up a statewide poll to legalize the distribution and cultivation of cannabis for medical use.
However, the expected adverse reactions to the proposal immediately came in, despite the fact that the medical marijuana law was already engaged in 2015. Governor Nathan Deal, who signed the law, maintained his stance against cultivation, citing that the industry “would not be able to be kept under control.” Regional director Virginia Galloway, on the other hand, believes the state’s cannabis laws put the substance “in a dangerous place.”
But the same could not be said for Georgia citizens, who according to a poll conducted at the time, were more in favor of the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes. According to Morgan Fox, a representative for the people lobbying for legislative approval, the support from the public has already been “several steps ahead” of lawmakers’ support. Indeed, it led to the passing of House Bill 65 a month and a half later.
Cannabis Still Banned Under Federal Law
Despite the leniency of more than half of US states, cannabis use is still classified as a banned substance on a federal level. According to this report in August 2016, even those who are advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana have been met with major disappointment, as the federal government decided to keep the substance catalogued as a Schedule 1 drug.
Substances classified under such a ruling simply indicate that they have no medicinal value whatsoever. This ruling comes despite the countless of research done to prove otherwise. According to a DEA evaluation at the time, cannabis’ chemistry is “not known and reproducible” and that there are “no adequate safety studies.”
The DEA also stated that cannabis bears a “high potential for abuse” which could then lead to psychological dependence. They pointed out that in 2012, 19 million people in the United States alone consumed marijuana on a monthly basis, and that 4.3 million people were classified as “marijuana dependent.”
Many would see how Georgia’s move to further enhance its medical marijuana laws to be a byproduct of forward thinking. After all, House Bill 65 was meant to cater to ailing individuals who see cannabis as a natural and less expensive form of treatment.
There is the one main obstacle, however, and that is the federal government’s ruling against the substance. But at the very least, Georgia’s newly enacted law is already benefitting those who need it the most.