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Medical cannabis access remains in limbo
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville

Advocates and lawmakers are skeptical that much more will be done in the state legislature this year to expand access to cannabis oil to treat medical conditions like seizure disorders.

“It’s only a guess, but probably not,” Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, said. “I hope to see (it) done this session.”

Moreover, a few setbacks could come if a current Senate proposal to reduce the THC content in cannabis oil is approved. 

Lawmakers OK’d the use of cannabis oil in 2015 to treat eight medical conditions: cancer, ALS, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle-cell disease.

But with no manufacturing and distribution of the drug within Georgia, some patients have been forced to break federal law by acquiring the drug out of state and transporting it back home.

A new medical cannabis study committee has been formed in the state House, and its chairman, Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he supports a statewide voter referendum on allowing the cultivation and distribution of medical cannabis in Georgia.

Hall County resident Katie Karlton Harrison treats her young son, Hawk, with cannabis oil to treat his seizures, which developed after suffering a brain hemorrhage at just 3 weeks old.

Harrison has been a prominent activist at the state Capitol and in the media working to expand access to the drug, which has proven remarkably effective in treating her son’s seizures.

“I’m hopeful we will get more conditions added, but not confident that anything more than that will change,” she said. “But I do know we are not giving in to the Senate lowering the THC level.”

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he supports adding autism to the list of approved medical conditions that can be treated with cannabis oil, which has anti-anxiety effects, among other beneficial properties, and lack the levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC that gets marijuana smokers high.

However, calls to expand legal use of the drug to those with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain have not been met with the same level of support.

Miller said he opposes attempts to “monkey” with the drug’s chemistry by lowering THC levels.

“The bill will definitely be improved by the inclusion of autism, but also calls for the reduction of active ingredients,” he added. “We have a bad habit of trying to fix problems that don’t exist, and not one single complaint to the health department would indicate active ingredients need to be changed.”