Georgians suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and intractable pain will soon be allowed to use medical marijuana, after Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 65 into law Monday, adding PTSD and intractable pain to the list of conditions eligible for treatment by cannabis oil. It will take effect July 1.
Georgia’s medical marijuana law, first passed in 2015, now covers more than a dozen conditions, including late-stage cancer and seizure disorders. The law allows patients approved by a physician to possess small amounts of cannabis oil.
State law still bans growing, buying or transporting the drug, leaving patients with no way to legally obtain it. The state’s original medical cannabis law, enacted in 2015, was extremely restrictive, allowing patients with a handful of qualifying conditions to use cannabis oils containing 3% or lower THC content.
The new law is barely an improvement, as it will significantly expand the number of Georgians who are allowed access to MMJ, but that’s where the good news ends, considering that the state does not provide a legal means for patients to purchase the cannabis oils they are legally allowed to use.
It is currently illegal to grow, process, or transport medical cannabis in any form in the Peach Tree State, effectively preventing any legal sales of the medicine. Patients who cannot wait for lawmakers to resolve the issue must import it illegally, running the risk of getting busted under federal drug trafficking laws. State Rep. Allan Peake, the driving force behind all of the state’s recent medical cannabis legislation, said that he has personally been importing cannabis oils into the state to distribute the medicine to patients in need.
Last year, state legislators expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by adding AIDS, Alzheimer’s, autism, Tourette’s, and several other ailments to the list of qualifying conditions. The new law, which goes into effect on July 1st, expands the pool of eligible patients even more, but the lack of a legal supply of medicine has kept enrollment in the program exceptionally low. There are currently only around 4,000 patients on the state registry, compared to over 200,000 in Michigan, and over a million in California.
A 15-member study commission will evaluate in-state access of cannabis oil, according to HB 65. The commission will evaluate security, manufacturing, product labeling, testing and dispensing.
About 4,000 patients are currently on the state’s medical marijuana registry.