Last week, Georgia Senators voted to make controversial changes to the current medical marijuana program. While several states across the country have voted to legalize medical and recreational cannabis or make expansions to current medical marijuana programs, Georgia has instead added a restriction. Senate Bill 16 passed which, on one hand, added autism to the current list of qualifying conditions but, on the other side of things, the bill lowered the THC level allowable in medical cannabis oil. The restriction has upset many parents of sick children, doctors and advocates alike but those who have supported the bill say that it puts the state more in line with the other states that have restricted THC laws.
Restricted to a Weaker Dosage
THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that creates the high. Previously in Georgia, the maximum THC level allowable was 5 percent. Now this amount has been reduced to 3 percent, which will make a difference to many people whose current dose is above this amount. Sebastian Cotte, the father of Jagger, a 6-year-old with pain and seizures connected to severe mitochondrial disease, gives his son a 5 percent liquid solution of THC. Cotten and many others will now have to use weaker dosages and hope for the best.
Reduction for Reduction’s Sake
There have been no reported problems with the 5 percent THC level in the medical marijuana oil currently allowed in Georgia but Senators are keen to keep restrictions as tight as possible. Some even suggested lowering it to 1 percent which is the maximum level in several other states with strict marijuana regulations. The current medical marijuana program has approximately 1,200 patients who are allowed to possess up to 20 ounces of medical marijuana oil. Doctors who spoke to officials expressed that while the cannabis oil doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, the higher percentage works for some patients who will now be impacted by this change.
Lawmakers React to Senate Bill 16
Senator Ben Watson, R-Savannah, who is also a doctor, spoke about the need for the federal government to change the classification of marijuana, saying that randomized tests needed to be done to better understand “this particular medicine.” Despite overwhelming evidence of marijuana’s medicinal uses, it is still classified as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as heroin as one of the most dangerous illicit substances and considered to have no medicinal purposes.
Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon has already introduced a new bill to the House which is being reviewed and discussed. The bill would allow patients with AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, HIV, intractable pain, post traumatic stress disorder and Tourette’s syndrome to qualify for treatment. It also allows patients with cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell disease to have access to treatment much sooner in the progression of the diseases. “This is the first down in a long football drive here,” explains Peake. “Our (House) bill’s going to be a lot different. We’re going to have more conditions on it and the THC level is not going to be touched.”
Marijuana advocates are passionate about getting Georgia residents the best possible options for cannabis treatments and will likely promote the most recently proposed bill as a solution to the setbacks of Senate Bill 16. For now, they can only hope that the reduced dosages will be enough to sustain the patients who were seeing progress through medical marijuana treatments.