Patients who qualify for Georgia’s ultra-restrictive cannabis oil program are now officially permitted to break the law in order to get their hands on this treatment option. Although Governor Nathan Deal felt strongly enough about medical marijuana to put his signature on a bill that allows patients suffering from specific life-altering conditions to possess low-THC oils, his commitment to the program was not rooted in enough confidence to authorize the state to cultivate and distribute this product. This, in turn, has put patients in a tight spot – forcing them to break federal law just to feel better.
Nevertheless, the Georgia Department of Public Health announced earlier this week that patients could begin applying for medical marijuana cards that will allow them to smuggle marijuana containing less than 5 percent THC into the state. This Low THC Registry, as it has been labeled, will allow cardholders to posses up to 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil without facing prosecution under state law.
However, qualified patients will first need to obtain this medicine from a legal state, which will more than likely involve establishing a relationship with a caregiver in Colorado. This could present some serious legal issues for people who are already emotionally and physically taxed by putting them in a position to be hammered with drug trafficking charges if they happen to have a run in with the law in neighboring states – an offense that carries the potential for some serious prison time.
When House Bill 1 was first introduced in the Georgia legislature, it included provisions that would have allowed the state to cultivate and distribute the medicine. Yet, Governor Deal insisted that he would not allow the bill to pass as long as it contained language stipulating that the cannabis supply fell on the responsibility of the state. Feeling as though a three-legged bill was better than a dead one, Representative Allen Peake, who sponsored the legislation, agreed to the governor’s request and the rest is history.
Georgia pot activists, however, were not at all impressed by Peake’s willingness to back down from the governor, blatantly disregarding the importance of patients not only being allowed to possess the oil, but also obtain it in a manner that does not require them to dodge Uncle Sam. In the end, the state’s decision to push through HB 1 was chalked up as a “betrayal,” a slap in the face of Georgia patients who desperately need cannabis oil to survive.
But the state is still proud of itself for seeing this half-measure to fruition. In a statement released by Georgia DPH Commissioner Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, she claims “individuals suffering from” cancer, seizure disorder, ALS, Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Sickle cell disease, Crohn’s, and Mitichondrial disease “now have another treatment option available to them. She, of course, fails to suggest the possibility of needing bail money and the number of a solid defense attorney.
Marijuana supporters say they are encouraged by the state’s steadfast approach to making the cannabis oil registry available in a timely manner, but their opinion of the overall program remains unchanged.
“It’s great to have a law on the books, but if it’s not serving the patients, it’s just symbolic,” Mike Liszewski, with Americans for Safe Access, told Online Athens.
To learn more about Georgia’s cannabis oil program, visit the Low THC Oil Registry Page.