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
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
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.