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Medical marijuana registry, commission now up and running
Cannabis oil use approved earlier this year in legislature
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Cannabis oil registry

Georgia’s patient registry for cannabis oil use is coordinated and operated by the Department of Public Health. See more information here.

Tuesday was a landmark day in Georgia for supporters of medical marijuana.

The state launched an online registry to certify patients for legal possession of cannabis oil, and the first meeting of the Commission on Medical Cannabis was held in Atlanta.

“It’s off to a phenomenal start and I think it will be a benefit to many families, in general, and young children, in particular,” said state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville.

Under a law passed this spring, physicians can now recommend cannabis oil, which has the anti-anxiety effects of marijuana, for eight medical conditions: cancer, ALS, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle-cell disease.

The Georgia Department of Public Health’s “Low THC Oil Registry” is a secure database of patients authorized to possess cannabis oil in the state.

“(Tuesday) marks a milestone for the state of Georgia and the Department of Public Health,” Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., DPH commissioner and state health officer, said in a statement. “Implementing (the new law) has been no small task, but individuals suffering from conditions listed in the law now have another treatment option available to them.”

Patients can obtain a card — similar to a license — which costs $25 and is valid for two years, through the registry that allows them to possess 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil with low levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that gets an individual high or intoxicated.

Physicians will enter a patient’s necessary information into the registry and the DPH will review applications.

“The secure cards we developed will ensure only those who are legally allowed to possess low THC oil for medical purposes will be able to do so,” Fitzgerald said. “And we are confident the electronic registry we have created will serve doctors and their patients quickly and efficiently long into the future.”

According to the DPH, doctors also will not risk their medical license by registering patients for cannabis oil.

Gillsville resident Katie Harrison, who has been active in the fight to legalize cannabis oil, said Tuesday was exciting for her family.

Her young son, Hawk, has several seizure disorders resulting from a brain hemorrhage when he was 3 weeks old.

Harrison had previously treated her son with cannabis oil in other states where it’s legal.

She said she plans to obtain a doctor’s recommendation and legal card to treat Hawk here in Georgia now that the state’s patient registry is operating.

“I’m ready to scream it from the rooftop ...” Harrison said. 

More than a dozen families, many of whom had moved from Georgia to other states where medical marijuana is legal, had already been issued temporary cards prior to the registry’s launch, allowing them to return to the Peach State. 

But access to cannabis oil will remain an obstacle for many families. Cultivation and distribution of the drug is not covered by the new law.

The DPH and Georgia doctors will not be prescribing or dispensing cannabis oil, and the possession or sale of marijuana in plant or flower form remains illegal.

How cannabis oil is manufactured, bought and sold will likely be addressed later this year by the Commission on Medical Cannabis, however.

Miller is a member of the commission — made up of physicians, attorneys, state legislators and law enforcement representatives — that will help set Georgia’s policies on medical marijuana and will make recommendations regarding access and availability to cannabis oil to the governor and General Assembly.

Tuesday’s commission meeting addressed how Georgia’s policies and enforcement measures regarding cannabis oil compare with other states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana, Miller said.

The commission will meet next in late August or early September, he added.

“This (issue) brings out people of varied interests,” Miller said, adding that lawmakers like him have “no interest whatsoever in the cultivation or promotion of recreational marijuana.”