Georgia Senate approves medical marijuana law expansion to include AIDS

Pending the governor’s signature, Georgia AIDS patients now have access to medical marijuana.

Senate Bill 16 passed the Senate this morning with a vote of 45 to 6. It’s a compromise version of the original House Bill 65, authored by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), and expands the number of patients eligible to participate in the Georgia Low THC Cannabis Oil Registry.

Peake took a moment earlier this week to thank his colleagues for their work on both HB 65 and SB 16.

“On behalf of the unknown gay man in Atlanta, whose life has been ravaged because of AIDS, who suffers unbearable pain because of his condition, but who now will have a legal option for medical cannabis oil to ease his suffering.  On behalf of him and other AIDS patients, thank you for supporting this bill,” he said.

Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah), who authored SB 16, spoke at the well on behalf of the legislation, and made a public plea to the federal government, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency to continue expanding access to medical marijuana to those who require it.

“Mr. Trump and now Dr. [Tom] Price and our former Gov. [Sonny] Perdue, please allow the FDA and DEA to tear down that wall. Allow THC to be used and be studied. Let us move it from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 1B and allow randomized control trial at universities and medical centers around the United States,” Watson said. “We need good data.”

The Georgia Senate passed Senate Bill 16 with an overwhelming majority, adding AIDS patients to the Georgia Low THC Cannabis Oil Registry. (Screenshot via Georgia General Assembly)

In addition to covering AIDS, SB 16 adds Tourette’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, epidermolysis bullosa, Alzheimer’s disease and peripheral neuropathy as instances in which Georgians can have access to the low THC cannabis oil.

THC, the shorthand for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana. CBD, or cannabidiol, on the other hand, provides therapeutic benefits. Peake told Georgia Voice that Georgia’s law caps at 5 percent THC oil because that provides therapeutic benefit for a wide range of illnesses without causing the high associated with recreational use of marijuana.

Georgians who can obtain the low THC oil must overcome multiple hurdles to do so. The main one, Peake said, is where to get the product.

“At this point, the very low THC product, below 0.3 percent THC, can be shipped from other states because it’s considered hemp, and that’s a very gray area in the federal law. That’s how some families are getting that product,” Peake said. “For some that are getting an elevated level that’s allowed under Georgia law, they have to go to another state that produces the product and bring it back.”

However, because medical cannabis is not legal in all 50 states, patients are then risking federal law by transporting a controlled substance across state lines.

“The end game, the real solution, is an in-state cultivation model where we can grow it, process and distribute it,” Peake said.

Update 3:50 p.m.: Peake took to Twitter to praise the senators who voted in favor of SB 16 and called on voters to remember how the senators voted on the bill if/when they run for statewide office.