A Look at Georgia’s Proposed Medical Marijuana Law and How Things Will Change if it is Passed
On Wednesday, January 7 Rep. Allen Peake (R- Macon), a long-time proponent of allowing sick Georgian’s to medicate with cannabis, pre-filed a bill that would establish a regulated medical marijuana system in Georgia.
House Bill 722, if passed, would retire the temporary system currently in place, known as the Haleigh’s Hope Act, and establish a Minnesota-like medical marijuana regulatory system in Georgia that would greatly expand access to marijuana extracts and products by patients.
What HB 722 Does
From the outset 722 is a radical departure from Georgia’s Haleigh’s Hope Act, which only decriminalized possession of certain substances by qualified patients and never actually established a medical marijuana program in Georgia. In contrast, this new law would:
- Dismantle Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry, which is currently maintained by the Department of Public Health
- Create a new patient registry for qualified patients
- Expand the list of qualifying conditions
- Provide a broader definition for caretakers
- Create a robust, fully-regulated medical cannabis system that includes in-state cultivation (no smoking, oil or vape only)
- Track the progress of patient treatment by collecting aggregated information on treatments and outcomes
- Place strict controls over who may access patient information and states that patient registry records may not be used against them in unrelated criminal proceedings
- Provide legal protection for qualified patients in housing and school situations
- Provide employment protection to qualified patients
- Provide custody protection to parents who are qualified parents
- Provide reasonable access to patients who are in nursing facilities
- Create a perpetual 20-person task force with vague duties
Frequently Asked Questions about HB 722
- What are the qualifying conditions for medical cannabis patients under the proposed law?
HB 722 greatly expands not only the number of conditions that make one eligible for medical cannabis, but it removes some of the most restrictive provisions of existing conditions. Under HB 722 the following conditions would qualify a patient for the medical cannabis program (red indicates a new condition):
- Cancer (end-stage or when resulting treatment produces wasting, nausea and vomiting)
- Mitochondrial disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sickle cell disease
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Seizures (gone is the epilepsy or trauma requirement)
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those related to MS
- Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS)
- Epidermolysis Bullosa
- Terminal illness with a life expectancy of under one year if the illness or its treatment produces severe pain, nausea or severe vomiting or wasting
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Intractable pain*
- Any other medical condition approved by the Commissioner
- If I am already a qualified patient under Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry program will I have to get re-certified?
No. HB 722 specifies that any patient who holds a valid Low THC Oil Registry card as of June 30, 2016 will be automatically registered under the new program. Since current low THC oil cards are good for two years this will apply to everyone that is currently registered.
- How is medical cannabis dispensed to patients?
HB 722 provides for a highly-structured system for the cultivation and dispensing of medical cannabis products. Providers who are approved for licensing will be allowed to have four dispensing locations throughout the state. In an attempt to further sterilize the cannabis plant, the only people allowed to dispense medical cannabis to patients will be licensed pharmacists. A patient will only be able to procure what the pharmacist determines is a 30-day supply.
- What about the 5% THC cap
With the repeal of the Haleigh’s Hope Act the 5% THC cap will also be removed.
- How much will enrollment cost?
Patients will be required to pay $200 in order to enroll in the medical cannabis program, unless the person is receiving Social Security Disability, SSI, medical assistance or Peach Care, in which case the enrollment fee will be $50. This fee will have to be paid every two years.
- When will dispensaries be operational?
The application deadline for medical cannabis manufacturers is December 1, 2016. After winning applicants are chosen they must agree to begin supplying medical cannabis to patients by no later than July 1, 2017, with a 6-month extension allowed if necessary.
You can read a copy of House Bill 722 below or download a PDF copy here.