Georgia MMJ Bill Clears Hurdle in Senate
Medical marijuana advocates scored a small victory in Atlanta on Friday as the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved an amended version of House Bill 1, a bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana in Georgia. The decision was reached after a lengthy public hearing where countless supporters and opponents voiced their opinions.
Representing the ironically named Faith and Freedom Coalition, Virginia Galloway testified at the hearing to oppose the bill.
“I respect the intentions of everyone who has worked on this bill, and the trauma the parents have gone through,” Galloway said. But, she went on to say, she cannot support the bill for fear of setting up a “slippery slope.” Oh, if only that were true.
The bill itself will allow patients with one of eight qualifying conditions to possess up to 20 ounces of marijuana oil and would be required to register with the department of health.
Those qualifying conditions are as follows: Crohn’s disease, cancer, ALS, seizure disorders related to epilepsy or trauma-related head injuries, mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and sickle-cell disease.
Most notably absent from the list of qualifying conditions is fibromyalgia, which was originally included in the bill but taken out in committee as there are some who believe that fibromyalgia is not a real condition. “Fibromyalgia is a difficult diagnosis,” Sen. Ben Watson told The Telegraph. “I think that will make it more difficult to pass.”
The marijuana oil that patients would have access to would still contain THC, but only up to 5 percent. As bad as that sounds, it could have been a whole lot worse. Initially members of the committee wanted to lower the threshold down to .3 percent, but luckily they were persuaded otherwise.
If passed, the bill would establish the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis. The commission would consist of 16 members; permanent members of the commission would include the director of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the director of Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, the commissioner of agriculture and the Governor’s executive counsel.
The rest of the commission would be appointed by the Governor and would include two state senators, two state representatives, a board certified oncologist, a board certified epitologist, a board certified neurologist, a pharmacist, a sheriff, a police chief, an attorney employed by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of the State of Georgia or a prosecuting attorney.
While it is admirable to include doctors on the commission, it is rather telling that the board would include law enforcement and those that would perpetuate marijuana prohibition and exclude any advocate or representative from the marijuana industry and community. By excluding those that actually know about marijuana, one shudders to think of the regulatory monstrosity that will inevitably come out of such a commission.
HB 1 is an imperfect bill that does not go far enough to help would be Georgian patients, but something is better than nothing. In such a conservative state, the passage of any marijuana reform is remarkable. As of right now, the bill has legs and stands a fighting chance of making it through the Senate, but politicians have been known to screw up even simple tasks. For now, we await the next step in the legislative process with cautious optimism.