Medical marijuana could be on the way for Georgians living with HIV/AIDS

During last year’s legislative session, state Rep. Allen Peake’s (R-Macon) much-debated medical marijuana bill passed, allowing Georgians to use a form of cannabis oil to treat severe cases of eight different illnesses, including cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Unfortunately Peake, under pressure from Gov. Nathan Deal and law enforcement and district attorney groups, removed HIV/AIDS and a few other illnesses from the bill, with Deal voicing his concerns about the drug being “misused.”

On top of that, the bill didn’t allow for the cultivation of medical marijuana in Georgia, so patients on the state registry for the drug must travel to other states to get it, making them vulnerable to getting busted for drug possession in states that haven’t made it legal to possess and use. So Peake introduced a new bill this year to remedy that.

This excerpt from an AJC story on the bill today caught our attention:

Peake has amassed more than 100 sponsors – more than enough needed to pass the chamber – for House Bill 722, which would create up to six facilities in Georgia where marijuana would be grown, harvested and processed into cannabis oil. The oil could be used by those who suffer from more than a dozen diseases, expanding the list from what’s currently allowed.

“More than a dozen?”

We took a glance at the latest version of the bill and to our surprise, HIV/AIDS is now listed as one of the covered illnesses, i.e. if the bill passes in its current form, those living with HIV/AIDS will have legal access to medical marijuana.

There’s only one problem, and it’s a familiar one—Nathan Deal.

In that same AJC article from today, the governor again cites the concerns he says he’s heard from law enforcement officials, but now adds the medical community to the list of groups who he says haven’t embraced the legislation enough to his liking.

“Doctors worry they will lose their license. Look at the very small number of doctors who have signed up on our registry to say that we would even approve the use of what we have already authorized,” Deal said after the State of the State speech. “If the medical community has not embraced it more thoroughly, I don’t know how the expansion of maladies that are covered would help.”

However, the bill’s supporters appear to be undeterred despite Gov. Deal’s comments, at least for now.

Peake and his allies aren’t backing down.

“We’re going to take up the bill that was introduced on Tuesday,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “We’re going to move forward on that bill in the House and I feel like we will be able to engage with the governor’s office and the Senate.”

Stay tuned.