The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) officially launched the state’s cannabis oil registry, which stems from the passing of HB 1 or Haleigh’s Hope Act, allowing patients suffering from a number of qualified medical conditions to possess low THC cannabis oil.
The agency announced that people interested in medical marijuana treatment can now begin submitting applications to receive a state-issued card that will provide them with permission to possess as much as 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil, as long as it doesn’t exceed 5 percent THC.
“Today marks a milestone for the state of Georgia and the Department of Public Health,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. “Implementing HB 1 has been no small task, but individuals suffering from conditions listed in the law now have another treatment option available to them.”
The news of Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry was a bit of a shock to medical marijuana advocates, who are admittedly impressed with the state’s ability to get the system up and running in a matter of months. However, they say the state’s rapid implementation of this program has more to do with not having to establish regulations to cultivate and distribute than it does compassion for sick residents.
“It’s great to have a law on the books, but if it’s not serving the patients, it’s just symbolic,” said Mike Liszewski, with Americans for Safe Access.
At the beginning of the year, when the Georgia legislature first heard the contents of Heleigh’s Hope, the proposal included a clause that would have allowed the state cultivate and distribute cannabis oil to patients all over the state. Yet, during a series of meetings, Governor Nathan Deal told the bills’ sponsor, Representative Allen Peake, that he wouldn’t stand behind any proposal that forced the state to provide patients with access to cannabis.
Peake, believing in the philosophy that passing a limited bill was better than waiting another year, agreed to the governor’s terms. In the end, the newly-amended legislation was stripped of the language that would have forced the state to produce and sell cannabis oil, and instead, offered patients a “take-it-or-leave-it” medical marijuana half-measure that forces them to break federal law.
Once a patient receives approval from the state to possess marijuana oil, a whole wealth of challenges arises. Not only will these people be forced to finance a trip to a legal state like Colorado to consult with a caregiver, but also they will have to risk federal prosecution traveling back to Georgia with 20 ounces of liquid weed – an offense that could lead to a rather extensive prison term.
It’s for this reason that many cannabis activists in Georgia believe that the passing of HB 1 was simply a political tactic to “pull the wool over” the eyes medical marijuana supporters across the state.
“They have betrayed the will and desire of the people of Georgia with their political shenanigans,” said James Bell of the Georgia C.A.R.E. Project.
The goal for the medical marijuana law, however, at least according to Representative Peake, is to expand it in 2016. The language of HB 1 requires a coalition to be formed to research ways the state could benefit from the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. Those recommendations must be submitted to the state before the end of the year – an indication that a regulatory model could follow suit.
In the meantime, the new law allows patients suffering from cancer, seizure disorder, ALS, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell disease, Crohn’s disease and mitochondrial disease to apply for a $25 medical marijuana card. Patients must have lived in Georgia for at least one year in order to qualify.
Do you use cannabis oil to treat your symptoms? Tell us about your experience in the comments.