Area residents have waited for years to buy a medicinal oil in Georgia to treat the effects of a number of medical conditions.
Paulding resident Jimmy Wages has been buying low THC oil outside Georgia for years to treat his daughter, Sydney, who suffers from seizures.
He said the oil significantly reduced the number of seizures his daughter experienced.
Wages also has been risking prosecution for transporting the drug across state lines because state law allows residents to possess it but not buy it in Georgia.
The Georgia House of Representatives March 5 approved legislation sponsored by District 67 State Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, to allow cultivation of marijuana in Georgia to produce low THC oil for residents on a state registry.
House members voted 123-40 for House Bill 324 sponsored by Gravley. It now moves to consideration by the state Senate.
Wages said on Facebook March 5 he hoped Gravley’s legislation eventually leads to availability of products in Georgia like a cannabis-based nose spray sold in Colorado which stopped his daughter’s seizures immediately upon use.
“This is only one of the reasons HB 324 is so important to us,” he said on Facebook.
Gravley, whose district includes parts of Paulding and Douglas counties, told House members March 5 his legislation received public support from such physicians as Atlanta neurologist Dr. Scott Cooper and geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Larry Tune of Emory University.
He said, “I believe with everything within me” it will help Georgians.
“These aren’t people who are seeking a recreational high,” he said. “These are people who simply want their children to experience less seizures, a loved one to be eased in the pain of cancer.
“These are people who simply want to go about their everyday lives and use an oil, and an oil only,” he said.
The bill allows legal manufacture and dispensing of low THC oil for patients with 16 medical conditions such as terminal cancer, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and severe autism, he said.
Only eligible patients registered with the Department of Public Health’s Low THC Oil Patient Registry would be able to purchase and possess up to 20 ounces of the low THC oil through licensed dispensaries throughout the state, Gravley said.
The Department of Public Health would issue licenses to produce, grow and manufacture low THC oil as well as separate licenses to qualified Georgia applicants for safe access to retail dispensaries by Jan. 1, 2020, he said.
The state-issued cards allowed patients in Georgia in the past to legally obtain the oil but they often were forced to obtain products from out-of-state sources they did not know, he said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I think we can do better than that,” Gravley said.
Opponents have included Georgia’s sheriffs and the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia who said they fear legalization for medical uses ultimately will lead to allowing recreational use.
District 32 State Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, told House members he generally supported the law enforcement community on legislation but disagreed with its stance on Gravley’s bill.
He said the only thing worse than having illnesses like epilepsy would be “watching a loved one suffer” with the effects of such diseases.
District 123 State Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, said he met with some families of patients using the oil and “began to realize there is significant evidence that this can be a life-changing substance in the right, controlled circumstances.”
Newton, a physician, said he supported the bill because he believed the oil can help patients “in these severe intractable circumstances where medicine has reached the end of its limits.”
Gravley said the bill tightly controls cultivation of marijuana as a source for creation of the low THC oil, which does not have the psychoactive effect the rest of the plant produces.
He said the legislation will create a seed-to-sale tracking system and require facility inspections and sample testing of medical cannabis oil products.