Medical use of marijuana may become legal in Georgia

On Monday, March 3, the Georgia House of Representatives voted 174-4 in approval for the House Bill 855 (HB 855), which was drafted by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon).

Representatives Ben Watson, Mickey Channell, Micha Gravley, Margaret Kaiser, Tom McCall and 80 others co-sponsor HB 855, according to Peake’s website.

The purpose of HB 855 is to amend Article five of Chapter 34 of Title 43 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, which relates to the use of cannabis for treatment of cancer and glaucoma, according to the bill.

HB 855 also states that its purpose is to provide for continuing research into the benefits of medical cannabis to treat certain medical conditions.

“WHEREAS, the General Assembly finds and declares that clinical research has shown certain benefits arising from the utilization of medical cannabis and, most recently, significant benefits of a particular strain delivered orally for the treatment of seizure disorders among children,” Section 1 of HB 855 says.

Lines 52 through 57, section 2 of HB 855 says that because the General Assembly would allow patients to participate in state-sponsored programs to investigate the use of medical cannabis, academic medical centers would have the ability to study the benefits of the drug in controlled clinical settings.

Qualified academic medical centers approved by the Patient Qualification Review Board, which was created by Code Section 43-34-124, would be able to authorize use of the medical cannabis to seriously ill patients.

The bill also states that these medical patients would be suffering from cancer as well as the severe side effects of chemotherapy or radiation treatment. This also includes glaucoma patients who are not responding to conventional treatments and who suffer from seizure disorders.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) says that although states have approved the use of medical marijuana to alleviate a variety of medical symptoms, only FDA-approved medications under federal law are legal to prescribe.

“Along with THC, the marijuana plant contains over 400 other chemical compounds including other cannabinoids that may be biologically active and vary from plant to plant. This makes it difficult to consider its use as a medicine even though some of marijuana’s specific ingredients may offer benefits,” the NIH website says.

Adam Richard, a senior psychology major and sociology minor at Georgia State, said he fully supports the legalization of marijuana.


Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 5.42.16 PM



“If it can help people, I am all for it. I think it should be legalized period, but this is definitely a step in the right direction, especially when you have people that need it for valid medical reasons such as epilepsy. It helps with depression and to eat when you have chemotherapy,” Richard said.

In comparison to marinol, a drug that treats or prevents vomiting in cancer patients, medical marijuana is more effective, according to Richard.

“In August 2013, the U.S. Justice Department issued an advisory saying federal prosecutors would not pursue investigations of medical marijuana as long as its use complied with the states’ guidelines,” Georgia Health News reported.

Richard also said that institutions conducting tests on medical marijuana could potentially be facing a lot of risks when it comes to federal law, but that they need to continue with research.

“Medical research needs to be done on [medical cannabis]. It’s still a little bit taboo, but it needs to be done more so to see what else can come from it. All medicine comes from plants just about so why not fully investigate it,” Richard said.

HB 855 would be heavily regulated limiting medical use to ingesting orally or in pill form, according to Peake’s website.

The bill is also known as ‘Haleigh’s Hope Act.’ Haleigh Cox is a 4-year-old girl from Forsyth who suffers from epilepsy that causes over 100 seizures a day according to the 11th Hour Online.

Haleigh Cox would receive cannabis treatment in the form of an oil according to her mother Jane Cox, the 11th Hour Online also reported.

Jane Cox said that medical cannabis is made into a special oil and is high on cannabidiol (CBD) and low on THC.

“Most kids can take [cannabis] by mouth in a capsule form. Some kids have to take it through a tube in their stomachs because they are unable to eat anything by mouth, like Haleigh,” Jane Cox said.

Sophomore exercise science major Khalara Spencer said that she thinks that Georgia should pass the bill to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“I’m pretty sure that many lives could be saved if marijuana was legal. It is a shame that Haleigh and her family have to move to Colorado for the sake of her health. I think Congress should focus more on how it will benefit people’s health instead of trying to figure out ways to make money from it,” Spencer said.

Currently there are 20 legal medical marijuana states in the U.S. including Colorado, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware and Hawaii, according to also reports that 15 other states apart from Georgia currently have pending legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.

These states include Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.