Georgia lawmakers tackling medical marijuana in house, senate

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Georgia state legislature is once again taking on medical marijuana, hoping to add more medical conditions to the list of people who can use cannabis oil.

A law passed in 2015 does not allow legal use of the oil for autistic children. Two separate bills in the senate and house right now could change that.

The senate bill passed overwhelmingly in the senate on Thursday. The house bill is still in committee hearings.

Haleigh's Hope—passed in 2015—provided hundreds of kids with an opportunity to try cannabis oil for treatment. Senator Ben Watson was a co-signer on that bill.

"You see those children that are on less seizure and are much more awake, have fewer seizures, on CBD oil. I think you'll see that this does have medicinal value," said Watson.

This year, he hopes to add more people to the list. Senate Bill 16 would allow autistic people over 18 or severely autistic people of any age the right to CBD oil.

The catch? The THC levels would be lower than originally passed in 2015 meaning the oil is not as strong.

"We felt in the senate overwhelmingly that we wanted it to be down just a little bit," said Watson.

Watson says some kids would stay on their original 5percent oil as opposed to 3 percent THC levels.

Patti Victor at the Matthew Reardon Autism Center isn't totally behind it. The lack of scientific proof worries them.

"At this point in time, there's no scientific research that proves the efficacy of it," said Victor, president and CEO of the Matthew Reardon Autism Center.

Instead, she prefers a separate bill that makes health care providers pay for behavioral therapy until patients are 21. Right now, the treatment stops at six years old.

"The support simply is not available because their parents can't afford private therapeutic services. This bill makes that possible," said Victor.

She does appreciate Watson's hard work on the bill, though. Watson hopes to take on the issue of lack of scientific evidence by encouraging the feds to move the oil and THC out of the schedule 1 drug category.

"Those anecdotal reports and observational data need to have randomized controlled trials that we can practice good medicine with. We need good science on this. We can't do it as long as it stays a schedule 1," said Watson.

In turn, providing scientific evidence of whether this oil really works.

The big issue here: it's all a catch 22. Parents who have kids who can use the oil for treatments approved in 2015 still can't legally manufacture or buy the oil in Georgia.

They also can't legally bring the oil here. In order for that to happen, a house resolution needs to be passed by two-thirds of both chambers.

That resolution is in the house in the form of Resolution 36. After a vote in the legislature, two-thirds of voters have to approve it at the ballot box in 2018.

The bad news? It hasn't even made it to a hearing yet. Representative Allen Peake wrote the resolution and House Bill 65.

HB 65 allows for the use of cannabis oil for many more reasons and keeps the THC percentage at 5 percent. That bill has not made it out of the committee hearing, though.

Peake and Watson co-sponsored the original Haleigh's Hope Act legalizing cannabis oil in 2015.

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