If you have been following the news on the push for medical cannabis in Georgia you are probably aware that it took a major blow when Governor Nathan Deal decided to not allow in-state growing. Despite all the meetings and panels throughout the past year, despite decades of scientific and medical evidence, despite 23 other states that already allow medical cannabis….despite all those reasons Nathan Deal thinks we need one more year for sick Georgians to suffer. I would love for Nathan Deal to tell that to the families suffering and dying every single day and hour in Georgia right now. One year is not only an eternity for many of them but possibly also a year too late to help them.
Nathan Deal also seems to either be unaware or simply doesn’t care that the side effects of prescription meds used to treat so many of these debilitating illnesses are completely inefficacious or can cause more harm. Or perhaps it is simply a case of old fashioned politics and donations. His two allies in the Georgia House and Senate Cooper and Unterman like Nathan Deal received big donations from GW Pharma. This company is opposed to loosening medical cannabis laws or allowing people to grow their own plants because then they wouldn’t be forced to spend thousands on Epidolex which is a medicine they produce. Profits over People.
Republican representative Allen Peake from Macon, GA has been the face of HB1 which is know as Haleigh’s Hope Act. If you click that link you will see a lot of lines crossed out. In 1980 the Georgia legislature passed something known as The Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act. HB1 essentially cancelled much of this out and renamed it Haleigh’s Hope Act. Named for Haleigh Cox a young girl that suffers from epileptic seizures.
The Atlanta Journal just published a debate of sorts. It features a letter from Allen Peake and an opposing letter from Sebastien Cotte. Allen Peake writes a very optimistic letter about HB1 and the changes by Nathan Deal to disallow in-state growing. I also recommend you read the comments below the article as well which have some very good insights.It was a comment by James Bell that inspired me to write this article.
Mr. Peake takes the “Pro” position that everything is still peachy and this extra year and more studies is not a setback. He refuses to blame or criticize Nathan Deal and tries his best to put a positive spin on very bad news.
Below the letter by Mr. Peake is the one by Sebastien Cotte. Sebastien Cotte, his wife Annett and son Jagger lived in Stone Mountain before moving to Colorado as medical refugees for their son Jagger who has seizures.
The letter by Mr. Cotte does not mention Allen Peake by name even once. Alen Peake has been very supportive of these medical refugee families. I suspect that even though many of these families are extremely upset about removing in-state growing they also want to keep the blame and focus on Nathan Deal and are reluctant to directly fault Allen Peake. Mr. Cotte takes the “Con” position. He is extremely diplomatic but you can sense a lot of anger, frustration, and shock at Nathan Deal’s decision to disallow in-state growing. He writes that few medical refugees will be helped by this neutered down version of HB1 and few will be able to return to Georgia.
I have experienced this hardship first hand. My wife and I moved our son Jagger to Colorado to gain access to cannabis oil to control his severe pain and seizures resulting from terminal mitochondrial disease. Leaving Georgia was extremely difficult: there was a possibility Jagger wouldn’t survive the six day road-trip. However, we made it and are providing Jagger with life-saving cannabis oil which has significantly reduced his seizures and pain episodes. Since starting on the oil, Jagger has also shown significant improvements in his cognitive abilities and for the first time in the past three years, he is smiling again.
In order to bring Georgia families home, we must have in-state growing in Georgia in 2015. Telling families and patients that they will not be prosecuted if they come home but not providing life-saving cannabis oil in Georgia, may be well-intentioned, but once again it leaves families with little hope of helping their sick children. And it leaves adults suffering from debilitating illnesses little hope of finding relief.
There is much more in his letter so I hope you will read his impassioned plea to Nathan Deal to change his mind.
The Unreasonable and Unscientific Fear of Tetrahydrocannabinol
Conservative Republicans seem to be terrified of THC. Even Allen Peake who has led the charge for HB1 seems opposed to more than trace amounts of THC and has called for a limit of 5%. It is important to remember than THC which can give people the “high” effect is an essential component towards treating many illnesses.
It is also important to remember that Morphine and Heroin are essentially the same thing. Heroin is diacetyl morphine. That is, heroin is simply morphine with an acetyl molecule attached. In terms of effects, they are exactly the same — and medically interchangeable — except for dosage. In fact, they are both converted to the same form of morphine when they get into the body.
The only significant difference between them is that the acetyl molecule allows heroin to cross the blood-brain barrier more quickly than ordinary morphine. The result is that, in terms of dosage, heroin is about three times stronger. That is, one grain of heroin equals about three grains of morphine. Otherwise, they are nearly identical and yet one is perfectly acceptable and the other is pure evil incarnate. If they will allow heroin to be used to treat pain by another name then why won’t they allow marijuana to treat over a dozen ailments by another name as well? Why are they so terrified of the so called “high” effect?
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is just one of the roughly 85 cannabinoids found naturally in marijuana and causes the euphoria or high. Clinical trials and the experiences of hundreds of thousands of patients have shown that THC, and strains of marijuana that include THC, provide important medical benefits for individuals suffering from pain, multiple sclerosis, nausea, and wasting disease. THC is also the cannabinoid most responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. While THC does cause marijuana’s “high,” patients use marijuana for relief, not for euphoria. Patients who inhale marijuana can titrate their dosage precisely to use only as much as they need, reducing or eliminating the euphoria. Some use marijuana only before bed.
Studies have shown that marijuana that includes THC can alleviate a host of debilitating conditions, including:
- Nausea and appetite loss: Researchers have found THC and marijuana with THC are effective anti-emetics and appetite stimulants for individuals suffering from the side effects of cancer chemotherapy or AIDS treatments.
- Multiple sclerosis: Research has found that marijuana with THC can alleviate spasticity. In addition, Canada, the U.K., and several other countries approved an oral marijuana extract made of equal proportions of CBD and THC.
- Pain: Several studies have found that marijuana strains that include THC can alleviate neuropathic pain — a notoriously difficult-to-treat nerve pain commonly found in amputees, AIDS patients, and patients with multiple sclerosis.
Medical marijuana legislation should not be so restrictive as to leave behind around 98% of the individuals who can benefit from it. THC has proven medical benefits and individuals who can benefit from strains that include it should not be forgotten when legislators debate medical marijuana bills. It is important to offer the 2% of patients with epileptic seizes that can benefit from this low THC oil but it is equally important to not abandon the 98% who would benefit from higher THC strains and other means to ingest besides oil form.
The Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act of 1980
You can view the entire 1980 Act HERE as a PDF. The parts about medical cannabis begin at page 62 as Article 5. Here is the link for the 2015 version also known as HB1 also Known as Haleigh’s Hope Act. Basically they seem to have simply taken the Act passed in 1980 and put lines through most of it. I bolded what was not struck through and gave it a red font to stand out a bit more. So exactly how is the 2015 version moving us forward when people in Georgia 35 years ago passed a much more reasonable and comprehensive Act than the version in 2015? How is this not a step backwards?
Georgia’s medical marijuana program faced a major problem when the legal pot supply dried up soon after the 1980 Act was passed. In 1982, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Drug Enforcement Administration stopped delivery of the country’s sole source of legal cannabis. Georgia’s program had effectively ended without ever supplying a single patient with the medical marijuana promised. Subsequent Georgia governors had the authority to reappoint the board, but never acted. As a result, the law has lingered on the books for the last 35 years. I would love to know how HB1 can possibly be considered a step forwards when the law from 1980 was already in place and simply needed a source of legal cannabis and a Governor with some backbone and no ties to big Pharma.
The law from 1980 certainly needed to be updated.
The law relied upon federal cooperation and supply, therefore rendering the law cumbersome and ineffective in accomplishing its goal to further the research into the benefits of medical marijuana. But instead of simply updating it to allow a supply of Georgia grown cannabis many of the best parts of the law were struck down and instead we have a new version with far less potential to help nearly as many people as the one in 1980 had hoped to accomplish.
Take a look for yourself: Parts in red are HB1 and Parts with line strikethrough is the version passed in 1980
- 15 This article shall be known and may be cited as the ‘
Controlled Substances Therapeutic 16 Research Act ‘Haleigh’s Hope Act.’
- 17 43-34-121.
- 18 (a) The General Assembly finds and declares
that the potential medicinal value of 19 marijuana has received insufficient study due to a lack of financial incentives for the 20 undertaking of appropriate research by private drug manufacturing concerns. Individual 21 physicians cannot feasibly utilize marijuana in clinical trials because of federal 22 governmental controls which involve expensive, time-consuming approval and monitoring 23 procedures this article’s purpose is the compassionate, potentially life-saving use of medical
- 24 cannabis, and this article is not intended to sanction, encourage, or otherwise provide for
- 25 the legalization of recreational use of cannabis.
26 (b) The General Assembly further finds and declares that limited studies throughout the 27 nation indicate that marijuana and certain of its derivatives possess valuable and, in some 28 cases, unique therapeutic properties, including the ability to relieve nausea and vomiting 29 which routinely accompany chemotherapy and irradiation used to treat cancer patients. 30 Marijuana also may be effective in reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients who 31 do not respond well to conventional medications.It is the intent of the General Assembly
- 32 in enacting this article to permit the therapeutic and treatment application of cannabis and
- 33 its derivatives. Such therapeutic and treatment applications shall include a nonsmoking
- 34 delivery system whether it be in the form of liquid, pill, or injection or other delivery
- 35 system that does not include smoking.
36 (c) The General Assembly further finds and declares that, in enabling individual 37 physicians and their patients to participate in a state-sponsored program for the 38 investigational use of marijuana and its derivatives, qualified physicians and surgeons 39 throughout the state will be able to study the benefits of the drug in a controlled clinical 40 setting, and additional knowledge will be gained with respect to dosage and effects.It is
- 41 the intent of the General Assembly in enacting this article to permit certain registered
- 42 patients to use and possess medical cannabis and its derivatives and to allow the dispensing
- 43 of medical cannabis and its derivatives by licensed, registered entities within this state.
- 44 (d) It is the intent of the General Assembly in enacting this article to
permit research into 45 the therapeutic applications of marijuana and its derivatives in cancer and glaucoma 46 patients. This would allow qualified physicians approved by the Patient Qualification 47 Review Board created by Code Section 43-34-124 to provide the drug on a compassionate 48 basis to seriously ill persons suffering from the severe side effects of chemotherapy or 49 radiation treatment and to persons suffering from glaucoma who are not responding to 50 conventional treatment, which persons would otherwise have no lawful access to it. It is 51 the further intent of the General Assembly to facilitate clinical trials of marijuana and its 52 derivatives, particularly with respect to persons suffering from cancer and glaucoma who 53 would be benefited by use of the drugprovide in Georgia a safe, effective, and timely
- 54 delivery system of medical cannabis oil with a maximum amount of tetrahydrocannabinol
- 55 for certain limited diagnoses and to provide for an infrastructure to tightly regulate such
- 56 system with significant security and strict state oversight.
57 (e) This article is limited to clinical trials and research into therapeutic applications of 58 marijuana only for use in treating glaucoma and in treating the side effects of 59 chemotherapeutic agents and radiation and should not be construed as either encouraging 60 or sanctioning the social use of marijuana. Nothing in this article shall be construed to 61 encourage the use of marijuana in lieu of or in conjunction with other accepted medical 62 treatment, but only as an adjunct to such accepted medical treatment.It is the intent of the
- 63 General Assembly to provide protection from prosecution for possession of medical
- 64 cannabis oil with a stated maximum amount of tetrahydrocannabinol for citizens who
- 65 provide evidence that such cannabis oil has been obtained legally in another state.
- 66 (f) It is further the intent of the General Assembly to create a strict regulatory system that
- 67 satisfies or exceeds recommendations from the United States Department of Justice to
- 68 protect the sovereignty of this state in the administration of this article.
69 70 43-34-122. 71 As used in this article, the term: 72 (1) ‘Board’ means the Georgia Composite Medical Board. 73 (2) ‘Marijuana’ means marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol, as defined or listed in Article 2 74 of Chapter 13 of Title 16. 75 (3) ‘Physician’ means a person licensed to practice medicine pursuant to Article 2 of this 76 chapter. 77 (4) ‘Program’ means the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program 78 established pursuant to Code Section 43-34-123. 79 (5) ‘Review board’ means the Patient Qualification Review Board established pursuant 80 to Code Section 43-34-124Reserved. 81 43-34-123. 82 (a) There is established under the Georgia Composite Medical Board the Controlled 83 Substances Therapeutic Research Program, which shall be administered by the board. 84 Under the program, the board shall act as a sponsor of state-wide investigational studies, 85 utilizing as drug investigators individual physicians who elect to participate in accordance 86 with the guidelines and protocols developed by the board. Such guidelines and protocols 87 shall be designed to ensure that stringent security and record-keeping requirements for 88 research drugs are met and that participants in the program meet those research standards 89 necessary to establish empirical bases for the evaluation of marijuana as a medically 90 recognized therapeutic substance. The board shall promulgate such rules and regulations 91 as it deems necessary or advisable to administer the program. In promulgating such 92 guidelines, protocols, rules, and regulations, the board shall take into consideration those 93 pertinent rules and regulations promulgated by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the 94 Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 95 (b) The program shall be limited to patients who are certified to the board by a physician 96 as being: -3- LC 37 1839 97 (1) Cancer patients involved in a life-threatening situation in which treatment by 98 chemotherapy or radiology has produced severe side effects; or 99 (2) Glaucoma patients who are not responding to conventional controlled substances. 100 (c) No patient may be admitted to the program without full disclosure by the physician of 101 the experimental nature of the program and of the possible risks and side effects of the 102 proposed treatment. 103 (d) The cost of any blood test required by the federal Food and Drug Administration prior 104 to entrance into the program shall be paid by the patient seeking entrance into the program. 105 (e) Only the following persons shall have access to the names and other identifying 106 characteristics of patients in the program for whom marijuana has been prescribed under 107 this article: 108 (1) The board; 109 (2) The review board created by Code Section 43-34-124; 110 (3) The Attorney General or his or her designee; 111 (4) Any person directly connected with the program who has a legitimate need for the 112 information; and 113 (5) Any federal agency having responsibility for the program Reserved. 114 43-34-124. 115 (a) The board shall appoint the Patient Qualification Review Board. Each member of the 116 review board shall be approved for such membership by a majority vote of the board and 117 shall serve at the pleasure of the board. The review board shall be composed of: 118 (1) A board certified physician in ophthalmology; 119 (2) A board certified physician in surgery; 120 (3) A board certified physician in internal medicine and medical oncology; 121 (4) A board certified physician in psychiatry; 122 (5) A board certified physician in radiology; and 123 (6) A pharmacist licensed under Chapter 4 of Title 26, relating to pharmacists, pharmacy, 124 and drugs. 125 (b) The review board shall elect from its members a chairperson and a vice chairperson. 126 The review board shall hold regular meetings at least once every 60 days and shall meet 127 at such additional times as shall be called by the chairperson of the review board or the 128 chairperson of the board. Each member of the review board shall receive for services for 129 each day’s attendance upon meetings of such board the same amount authorized by law for 130 members of the General Assembly for attendance upon meetings of the General Assembly. 131 (c) The board shall adopt such rules and regulations as it deems necessary for the 132 performance of the duties of the review board. -4- LC 37 1839 133 (d) The review board shall review all patient applicants for the program and their 134 physicians and shall certify those qualified for participation in the program. The review 135 board shall additionally certify pharmacies which are licensed by the state and which are 136 otherwise qualified and certify physicians regarding the distribution of marijuana pursuant 137 to Code Section 43-34-125. Meetings of the review board to certify patients, physicians, 138 or pharmacies shall not be open to the public, as otherwise required by Chapter 14 of 139 Title 50 Reserved. 140 43-34-125. 141 (a) The board shall apply to contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse for receipt 142 of marijuana pursuant to this article and pursuant to regulations promulgated by the 143 National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Drug 144 Enforcement Agency. 145 (b) The board shall cause marijuana approved for use in the program to be transferred to 146 a certified pharmacy, licensed by the state, for distribution to the certified patient by a 147 licensed pharmacist upon a written order for research medication of the certified physician, 148 pursuant to this article. Any reasonable costs incurred by the board in obtaining or testing 149 marijuana shall be charged to participating physicians who may seek reimbursement from 150 their research subjects utilizing the marijuana Reserved. 151 43-34-126. 152 Patient participants in the program are immune from state prosecution for possession of 153 marijuana as authorized by this article and under the program established in this article. 154 A person authorized under this program shall not possess an amount of marijuana in excess 155 of the amount prescribed under the authority of this article. The amount prescribed shall 156 be maintained in the container in which it was placed at the time the prescription was filled. 157 Physician, pharmacy, and pharmacist participants in the program are immune from state 158 prosecution for possession, distribution, and any other use of marijuana, which use is 159 authorized such persons by this article. Any such possession, distribution, or other use not 160 authorized by this article shall be enforced and punished as provided in Chapter 13 of 161 Title 16, relating to controlled substances and dangerous drugs, and Chapter 4 of Title 26, 162 relating to pharmacists and pharmaciesReserved.” 163 SECTION 2.
- 164 All laws and parts of laws in conflict with this Act are repealed.