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Gov. Nathan Deal ratifies medical marijuana bill

Janae Cox fights back tears as she and her husband, Brian Cox, display Georgia’s first medical cannabis card for their daughter Haleigh. Photo by | The Signal
Janae Cox fights back tears as she and her husband, Brian Cox, display Georgia’s first medical cannabis card for their daughter Haleigh. Photo by | The Signal
Janae Cox fights back tears as she and her husband, Brian Cox, display Georgia’s first medical cannabis card for their daughter Haleigh.
Photo by Sean Keenan | The Signal

Gov. Nathan Deal signed Georgia House Bill 1 (HB 1) on April 16, legalizing cannabis extracts for individuals with debilitating conditions.

HB 1, also called “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” was named after five-year-old Haleigh Cox who lives with chronic seizures. The legislation will allow for the medicinal use of prescription cannabis extracts to combat similar medical ailments.

Cannabinoid medicine with less than five percent Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, is permitted, according to the bill.

Patients, such as Haleigh, can find medical sanctuary in Georgia now that the bill has passed, according to Deal.

“[Those] suffering from debilitating conditions can now receive the treatment they need, in the place where they belong: Georgia,” he said.

HB 1 requires prospective patients to obtain approval from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) prior to acquiring cannabis oil, according to a statement from the Governor’s office.

Georgia representative Allen Peake said this marks the beginning of reparations to be paid to families who had to emigrate from Georgia to seek legal remedies.

“We can now begin the highly anticipated process of bringing our medical refugees back home to Georgia,” he said.

Following the signing of HB 1, DPH yielded the first seven medicinal cannabis cards to families afflicted by previous laws.

Janea Cox, mother of Haleigh Cox, received the first card and said she has been fighting for this legislation for years. She said the bill’s ratification will have a great impact on her daughter’s condition.

“[Haleigh] was having 200 plus [seizures a day] before…but yesterday she had maybe four tiny ones,” she said.

Mrs. Cox said she is proud to see the fruits of her efforts, but sees HB 1 as just the first step towards accommodating those in need of cannabis extracts.

“We really need [in-state] cultivation and I think that’s going to be our fight next year,” she said. “Without cultivation, it puts the parents of the families at risk. That way, we’re not traveling back and forth, we won’t have to worry about if the federal government decides not to ship.”

With quasi-legal federal regulation, transporting cannabis products can prove taxing, according to Mrs. Cox.

“We’ll have to go back [to Colorado] every now and then to get it,” she said. “We’re hoping maybe South Carolina will [approve legislation] to help us so there are many options out there.”

Peake said the advances made by this legislation could not have been accomplished without the diligent support of the necessitous families.

“The true heroes, without which none of this would have been possible, are the families who fought courageously and tirelessly to see this legislation through to its passage,” he said.

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