After months of working its way to Governor Nathan Deal’s desk, a new bill hoped to add intractable pain and PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Georgia. And yesterday, Governor Deal signed the bill into law.
A Look at Marijuana in Georgia
Georgia has been easing up on weed penalties for a while. Last fall, Atlanta, the largest city and capital, passed a referendum that decriminalized marijuana. Now, Atlantans cannot be jailed for possession, and the maximum fine is a low $75.
Since then, lawmakers have introduced new legislation that would extend decriminalization to the whole state. The first bill, House Bill 865, would reclassify possession of 2 ounces as a misdemeanor. Additionally, Senate Bill 105 would decriminalize up to half an ounce, and lower the fine.
Of course, selling, transporting, and growing marijuana would still be illegal. Though this legislation is by no means lenient, it is a movement towards tolerance.
The State’s Medical Marijuana Laws Are Evolving
Georgia legalized medical marijuana in 2015 but continues to expand its list of qualifying conditions. In 2017, Republican State Representative Allen Peake introduced a bill to the House that doubled the list of ailments treatable with medical pot.
The list included HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s Syndrome, autism, autoimmune disease, epidermolysis bullosa, Alzheimer’s disease, and peripheral neuropathy. Today, increasing scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that marijuana can treat these illnesses.
To date, approximately 4,000 Georgians have medical marijuana cards.
This Week, Lawmakers Added More Conditions
On Monday, House Bill 65 reached the final step in the legislative process. Thanks to Governor Nathan Deal’s signature, patients with intractable pain and PTSD can now access medical marijuana.
Getting this bill through was not easy due to intense opposition. A supporter of the legislation, House Rep. David Clark, had some harsh words for the President of the Senate, Casey Cagle. “There are lives at stake. This isn’t a game. … People are dying,” he said to Cagle.
This bill’s passage does not mean that you can get marijuana in any form. Even with a doctor’s approval, you can’t legally smoke marijuana. This legislation only permits is low-THC cannabis oil.
Unfortunately, you may not even be able to get weed oil due to a huge caveat in the new law. Cardholders still have no legal way to get their medicine because you cannot grow marijuana or bring it from one place to another. You cannot legally import it from another state, either.
Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Program Is Far From Complete
Since there isn’t a legal way for patients to obtain medical marijuana, the state is still essentially forcing people to break the law to access medicine they’re legally allowed to have. In early 2018, lawmakers attempted to pass a bill that would have allowed cannabis cultivation. As is the case in Washington D.C. with recreational weed, lawmakers need to find a way to get people access to a substance they’ve legalized.
Despite Georgia’s conservatism when it comes to medical marijuana, some are optimistic that recreational marijuana is coming. This southern state needs to up its tax revenue, and last year, they failed to legalize casinos. As seen in Colorado, marijuana is an untapped source of state income.
Whether discussing medical or recreational marijuana, Georgia’s biggest obstacle is its unique legislative process. A vote cannot legalize weed, so it would need to go through lawmakers… which seems less than likely with a Republican majority in the Georgian Senate and House.