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Medical Marijuana Bill, Pediatric Autism Deadlocked in Legislature

Medical marijuana in oil or pill form would be allowed for some ailments such as glaucoma, seizures and cancer under a bill approved by the Georgia Senate.

Medical marijuana in oil or pill form would be allowed for some ailments under a bill Georgia lawmakers are considering. Credit: File|Patch
Medical marijuana in oil or pill form would be allowed for some ailments under a bill Georgia lawmakers are considering. Credit: File|Patch

Georgia’s Senate and House members have until midnight tonight to reach a compromise, or bills to allow medical marijuana use and a measure requiring insurance companies to cover pediatric autism will be dead for another year.

The state Senate said in a 54-0 vote Thursday that Georgians should be allowed to possess a liquid medicine derived from cannabis that’s used to treat pediatric seizures, but only if the House would, in return, require insurance companies to provide coverage for pediatric autism, reports the Macon Telegraph.

“We have talked about autism for several years now. ... We (the Senate) very much agree with helping children” who have autism, said state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who carried House Bill 885 in the Senate and supports the autism amendments.

But “the medical marijuana (bill) goes nowhere unless this right here (autism coverage) goes with it,” Unterman said on the Senate floor.

The House has pushed back against the same autism measures on fears that it’s too expensive a mandate for insurers.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, author of House Bill 885, was busy pushing for passage of a cannabis-only version on Thursday.

Peake sponsored Haleigh’s Hope Act after learning of 4-year-old Haleigh Cox of Monroe County, who suffers from epilepsy and endures as many as 100 seizures a day, reports Georgia Public Radio.

For children like Haleigh, a marijuana derivative called cannabidiol (CBD) has significantly reduced the seizures. Parents have said CBD is the only treatment providing relief.

Peake said his bill would allow academic research institutions to grow the plant, not businesses or individuals.

If both bodies of the legislature enact a bill, the Georgia Composite Medical Board would oversee the use of marijuana derivatives in an oil or pill form, for treatment of patients within an academic medical center research setting, under the direction of a physician.

The only conditions approved for treatment would be seizure disorders, glaucoma, and nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and radiation.

The Marijuana Policy Project says, ”We already know from similar programs in other states that this will be unworkable. Please ask your legislators to support an effective medical marijuana program in Georgia based on MPP’s model bill.”

Twenty other states have medical marijuana laws, allowing for in-state production, manufacture and distribution for treatment of patients on the recommendation of their physicians.

In August 2013, the U.S. Justice Department issued an advisory saying federal prosecutors would not pursue investigations of medical marijuana as long as its use complied with the states’ guidelines.

Good Grief Y'all March 22, 2014 at 10:47 AM
You are so right, What goes around comes around! Untermann led the pack in this political game against children in need of medical help and insurance relief. I don't think she can be shamed. She chose one group of children over another group, but they all need help. Now neither group will get it for at least another year. The bills should have been separate and voted on separately, then both would have had a chance. At least one of them would and then all energy and focus could have been placed on the other issue.
TheSkalawag March 23, 2014 at 01:54 PM
It appears to me that Ms Untermann used an age old political tactic to get a bill passed that she knew had no chance of passage on its own because State House members are more concerned with the financial well being of the insurance industry than the physical well being of their constituents. (The House has pushed back against the same autism measures on fears that it’s too expensive a mandate for insurers.) I will be glad when Georgia voters finally take note of these kinds of actions not being in THEIR best interest and they start electing people that will look out for them instead of corporations.
Good Grief Y'all March 23, 2014 at 02:29 PM
So true, Skalawag. And that would be - too expensive to the tune of 50 cents per policy/person. Given the chance, I doubt good people would object to such a small price to pay for these kids getting the help they need.
Jose Gonzales March 26, 2014 at 06:28 PM
You can bring a gun to church now in Georgia but if you put some marijuana holy oil on a baby having a seizure, it's off to prison for 20 years. Can anyone imagine a state dumber than Georgia?
TheSkalawag March 27, 2014 at 11:02 AM
"Can anyone imagine a state dumber than Georgia?" ----- Jose Gonzales what I don't want to imagine is a populace that elects people to office who pass dumb laws like these. If you are unhappy with the legislation being passed get out the vote to change it.

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