A measure to legalize the use of medical cannabis extracts has sailed through the Georgia State Legislature with overwhelming support, and now heads to the governor’s desk, where it will be signed into law, according to a statement made by Governor Nathan Deal earlier this week.
Once signed by the governor, House Bill 1, titled Haleigh’s Hope Act after a young Georgian girl with a form of epilepsy that can cause her to have up to 100 seizures a day, will become effective immediately. The measure will legalize the use of low-THC (5% or less) cannabis extracts such as tinctures and oils for patients suffering from debilitating conditions including cancer, Crohn’s disease, seizure disorders, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Patients who receive a recommendation from a physician and register with the state’s Department of Public Health will be permitted to possess up to 20 fluid ounces of extracts. In addition to legalizing the use of the cannabis-based medicines for patients, the new law will allow universities and other non-profit organizations to produce, distribute and study cannabis extracts. According to Representative Allen Peake, the primary sponsor of the measure, over half a million people in Georgia could potentially benefit from the new law.
Passage of this bill will allow many families, including Haleigh’s, who have relocated to areas like Colorado where medical cannabis treatments are currently available, to finally return home to Georgia.
“It’s so emotional.” said Haleigh’s mother Janea Cox, after watching the Georgia House put the measure through its final vote. “To have it finally pass, you feel like a huge weight has just been lifted off of your shoulders.” Haleigh and her mother moved out of state last year, and are excited to be reunited with Haleigh’s father, who remained in Georgia. “Now my husband can see Haleigh whenever he wants, not just one week out of two months,” Cox said. “We get to be a family again.”
Sebastien Cotte, another parent who had to move his family to Colorado, says the measure is a huge step. Cotte relocated to Colorado last August to access cannabis-based medication for his 4-year old son Jagger, who suffers from a rare seizure disorder. “It’s going to let us come home,” said Cotte. “If we bring back the oil and we are in Georgia, nothing can happen to us. I can give it to Jagger and not worry about child services taking him.”
Many other families around the country are eagerly awaiting the passage of similar bills in their own state that would grant them access to the medicines they so desperately need. The State of Virginia recently did just that, legalizing the use of low-THC, high-CBD cannabis extracts for those with qualifying conditions. Several other states have legislation pending to legalize some form of medical cannabis that could very well pass this session, including Idaho, Iowa, Florida and Tennessee.