Updated on February 2, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
As of May 2018, Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill to expand Senate Bill 16 to include two new conditions to be treated using medical marijuana: PTSD and intractable pain. Previously, Senate Bill 16 only permitted the limited use of cannabis oil to treat AIDS, Alzheimer’s, autism, peripheral neuropathy, Tourette’s Syndrome, and epidermolysis bullosa.
Medical marijuana in Georgia became available for certain patients on April 16, 2015, when Governor Nathan Deal, signed House Bill 1, also known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” into law. HB 1 effectively permits patients diagnosed with medical conditions that include the likes of: cancer; seizure disorders; Crohn’s disease; ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease); multiple sclerosis; mitochondrial disease; Parkinson’s disease; sickle cell anemia; or seizure disorders; to use cannabis oil that contains a maximum of 5% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
The law also gave Georgia universities permission to begin research into the effectiveness of CBD oil and other marijuana products in treating seizure disorders in children.
“For the families enduring separation and patients suffering pain, the wait is finally over… Now, Georgia children and their families may return home while continuing to receive much-needed care. Patients such as Haleigh Cox, for whom this bill is named, and others suffering from debilitating conditions can now receive the treatment they need, in the place where they belong: Georgia,” said Georgia Governor Deal, in a statement released after the bill’s signing.
On March 1, 2017, the state House passed HB 65, a bill that would greatly expand the Georgia medical marijuana program. Sponsored by Republican representative Allen Peake, the bill would double the number of qualifying conditions and illnesses to include health problems such as:
The bill removed the one-year residency requirement and allows people from other states who have registration cards to legally possess CBD oil in Georgia. However, for cardholders to be protected from potential law enforcement action, their cards must be from states that have similar low-THC cannabis extract laws to Georgia.
This vote from the House took place two weeks after the Senate passed a Georgia medical marijuana law that would have only added autism to the qualifying conditions list. However, it would have also lowered the maximum allowable THC level to only three percent. Many advocates believe that is far too low of a percentage for CBD oil to be effective.
So far, Georgia has made progress when it comes to efforts towards legalizing medical marijuana. The city of Atlanta has decriminalized low-level marijuana possession and Savannah might follow suit. Further, there is a growing popular support for medical marijuana across the state, according to a study conducted by Georgia College published in November 2017.
While it is encouraging that medical marijuana in Georgia is available to people suffering from a wide variety of health ailments, many people suffering from conditions other than epilepsy tend to gain more benefit from cannabis products that contain higher levels of THC than Georgia law allows.
For these patients to obtain the relief they need, they must be able to access the strain of medical cannabis they need to properly address their symptoms. THC is particularly effective in relieving pain associated with neuropathy, a form of nerve pain that is extremely difficult to treat through traditional means.
According to myriad clinical trials, THC offers substantial relief from pain. And while it is the psychoactive component in weed, patients who use strains high in THC aren’t merely doing it to get high — they’re using it to ease their suffering. Patients can use exact dosages of high-THC strains, obtaining only the amount they need to find relief.
Unfortunately, the state does not provide specific direction on how to obtain medical marijuana in Georgia. The law only states that patients can have up to 20 ounces of CBD oil that has no more than five percent THC if it is in a pharmaceutical container labeled with the THC percentage. Many patients, therefore, travel to other states and obtain CBD oil, risking arrest by federal authorities. Marijuana and marijuana extracts are considered to be Schedule I controlled substances, making it a federal crime to possess them. Penalties can be especially harsh if someone is caught transporting a Schedule I substance across state lines.
Granted, the chances of a federal agent actually pursuing a case against someone with a small amount of CBD oil is extremely slim. There have been no reported federal prosecutions in this area. However, it can be very difficult for patients to obtain the oil they need to relieve their suffering. It was very unclear as of this writing if there are any plans to create dispensaries within the state that would make it more convenient for patients and their families to obtain the extract.
For more information on how to access CBD cannabis oil in Georgia, kindly contact the Georgia Department of Health directly.
To be notified should the State of Georgia pass legislature to expand its medical cannabis program to include more qualifying conditions, or to learn when and if the state makes it easier to obtain CBD oil, please sign up to the Georgia waitlist.