Proponents of medical marijuana were left feeling deflated last week when politics unraveled parts of a state bill aimed at regulating use of the drug in limited form and scope.
Cannabis oil is nearly clean of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that gets people high. It’s a far cry from the actual plant smoked legally in states like Colorado and Washington.
Georgia lawmakers remain likely to begin allowing children suffering from seizure disorders to possess and use this oil, which has anti-anxiety effects.
However, any meaningful language establishing a system for the production and distribution of cannabis oil in Georgia is now absent from proposed legislation.
“This year I hope to sign legislation to decriminalize cannabis oil in Georgia so that families who need it and who obtain it legally will not be prosecuted for possession of it,” Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday in his State of the State address.
But the governor is not supportive of expanding access to the drug by way of cultivation, perhaps at university research institutes.
“The governor’s position, and I like it as well, is that we will work to continue to develop the program over the next couple of years,” said state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, a floor leader and backer of Deal’s agenda. “And then if production becomes something the state wants to do, then we’ve got something in place.”
For parents like Sarabeth Fowler of Clarkesville, putting off plans to make cannabis oil accessible in the state is hugely disappointing.
“My immediate feeling ... I was upset and angry,” Fowler said when she learned of the news last week.
Fowler’s 8-year-old daughter, Ava, has a brain condition that causes epileptic seizures. While there are other drugs to treat her, cannabis oil presents the fewest side effects.
While Deal said lawmakers would continue studying how to facilitate access to the drug, he was unequivocal in his caution about what could come next.
“Let me be clear, I do not support the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes,” Deal said. “We want to find a pathway to bring our children home from Colorado without becoming Colorado.”
The Drug Free Coalition of Hall County supports Deal’s approach to production, saying mass cultivation could lead to “de facto” legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
Fowler said she is staying positive, and productive, hoping a day will soon come when the drug is easily and affordably available.
She once wrote every state lawmaker to share her daughter’s story.
And it’s that tenacity that keeps her saying, “There’s lots more work to be done.”