Following last week’s final hearing on House Bill 722 before the Non-Civil Judiciary Committee a very different bill emerged than was originally submitted. In the initial draft of the legislation, submitted by Rep. Allen Peake (R- Macon), Georgia patients would have seen an expanded medical marijuana oil program that included a robust in-state cultivation and distribution model. The substitute version of 722, which was passed by the House of Representatives this morning, has many hurdles that still lie before it. It must now go to the Senate and then to the Governor if it makes it through the Senate — and that’s a very BIG IF at this point — but if it does become law it will not only expand access to medical marijuana oil but it will also change the way marijuana-related DUIs are handled in Georgia.
Expanded qualifying conditions
Here is a list of qualifying conditions in the version of 722 as passed by the House:
- Cancer which produces wasting, nausea and vomiting
- Seizure disorders related to epilepsy and head injury
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or IBS
- Mitochondrial Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Epidermolysis bullosa
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Terminal illness with a life expectancy of less than 2 years, if the illness produces severe pain, severe nausea or vomiting or cachexia (severe wasting)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Redefining Low THC Oil
One of the first things HB 722 (now known officially as “Haleigh’s Hope Act – Part II”) does is makes a slight, albeit significant, change to the definition of Low THC Oil. Though the THC cap remains the same at 5%, the requirement of an equal or greater amount of CBD is now replaced simply with “an amount of cannabidiol (CBD)”.
Why is this significant? For one, lawmakers are admitting that they are not doctors and have no business dictating how much (admittedly harmless) CBD the patient’s oil must contain. An example where it might not make sense medically to take more CBD than THC would be in the case of glaucoma patients or others that suffer from increased intraoccular pressure. For patients like this, even though 5% THC might be far less than they need to achieve full relief, the ability to remove higher levels of CBD may actually contribute toward relief.
THCA would be an option
Included in HHv2 is language that allows the inclusion of THCA, which is the acid (non activated/non-psychoactive) form of THC. THCA is a cannabis compound that is beginning to demonstrate a lot therapeutic potential based on recent research, as well as a large number of parents that are now giving it to their children to treat seizure disorders.
Shipping cannabis oil
In an attempt to squelch the protest of parents who have promised to lobby against HHv2 lawmakers saw fit to add legal protection for manufacturers that ship low THC oil to qualified Georgia patients. A group of activists have said they will fight to defeat the substitute version of the bill without the in-state cultivation measure despite the expanded access and increased legal protection afforded in v2.
Closing the hash oil loophole
Many people were surprised when Rep. Peake and Chuck Spahos, head of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia, joined forces last week to explain to the committee that Georgia has inadvertently had a loophole in state law for 40 years that legalizes cannabis extracts that contain less than 15% THC.
Removing the residency requirement
Thankfully lawmakers saw fit to remove the arbitrary 1-year residency requirement from 722, which should remove confusion since previously only children and their parents were able to move to Georgia in order to obtain low THC oil.
Changes to Georgia’s DUI Law
Sections 8 and 9 of HB 722 deal with an issue that has long been a problem in Georgia, and that is the automatic suspension of the drivers license when any amount of marijuana is detected in the driver’s system following a DUI arrest. 722 corrects this relic of the war on cannabis users, at least to a certain extent, by setting a threshold whereby a driver will be presumed to be under the influence of marijuana if it is crossed (2 ng/ml). Even though this is a relatively low threshold (especially considering the length of time that THC and metabolites can stay in your system), at least it now removes the automatic presumption of DUI when a driver tests positive for marijuana and adds a per-se level that will have to be met by prosecutors in court.
Download the legislation
Read the full bill below or download the PDF copy of the current bill here.