Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission Rejects In-state Cultivation
(APN) ATLANTA — The last hearing of the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission was held December 09, 2015 in Atlanta. The Commission developed four recommendations to be presented to Gov. Nathan Deal later this month.
The Commission voted against in state cultivations, the vote was 9 to 5.
All law enforcement officials on the Commission opposed in-state growth because of federal laws. Most of the doctors voted for it. Governor Nathan Deal has said he opposes in state cultivation of cannabis.
Those voting in favor of in-state cultivation were Rep. Peake, Dr. Mark Murphy, Dr. Yong Park, Dr. Sara Reece, and Dr. Cynthia Whetmore.
Of the remaining Commission members, it was not immediately clear who voted no and who was not present.
State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) promised, however, that he will still introduce a bill in the 2016 Legislative Session to bring up the issue of in-state cultivation again.
“It would be easy to roll over and quit, but families that I have come to know and love over the last two years are worth fighting for,” Rep. Peake said on Facebook.
Other initial recommendations include urging our federal Congressional delegation to change federal laws to allow interstate transportation of CBD oil for medical purposes.
This would allow patients to obtain the CBD oil without breaking federal laws. Patients and family members currently have to smuggle the medicine into Georgia, putting themselves at risk of federal prosecution.
Once in Georgia, possession of the oil is decriminalized for those eight conditions set out in HB 1 earlier this year.
Another recommendation was to appoint a medical advisory board to add other conditions and different formulations to the list.
The Minnesota Medical Cannabis Model, which is the most regulated in the country, was considered the best model for future consideration for some aspects of that program to be used in Georgia. The State of Minnesota has in-state cultivation.
Minnesota is strictly a medical cannabis state, which is “a complete night and day difference from what is going on in Colorado, where they have recreational marijuana,” Rep. Peake said.
A truly heartbreaking story was told that had grown men and women wiping tears from their eyes: Brian and Audra Underwood showed pictures of their one and a half year old son, Reid, showing his chronic wounds from a rare genetic skin disease called Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (RDEB).
Reid was born missing skin from his legs, hands, and back. These chronic wounds are very hard to heal and even a hug can cause the skin to drop off again.
When this happens, his mother has to pour a bleach water solution over his raw skin to keep infection away. Reid experiences unbelievable pain every day. Most children with RDEB do not live very long; and many who do want to die. These children are on the strongest narcotics available because the pain in unbearable.
Cannabis oil helps these kids with their intractable pain, itching, and inflammation; and it does not cause damage to the internal organs like the prescription narcotics they take.
“The opposition to cannabis oil is completely filled with fear… I am puzzled why some people are against cannabis oil; but somehow think Morphine, Methadone, and Dilaudid are ok,” Underwood said.
The Commission members were in agreement that RDEB should be added to the list of acceptable conditions for which a Georgia citizen can receive CBD oil.
Joshua Littrell, founder of Veterans for Cannabis (VFC), spoke for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He told the Commission that 22 veterans a day commit suicide due to PTSD. Veterans die at a fifty percent greater rate from accidental overdose of prescription pain medications than civilians.
“Cannabis could prevent many of those deaths,” Littrell said.
“We need an in-state cultivation model that is whole plant. We need the synergistic effect that comes from THC and CBD together. I urge the Committee to recommend additional delivery options such as vaporizing, edibles, and smoking flower,” Littrell said.
“The list of conditions has to be expanded, to include chronic pain, PTSD, fibromyalgia, diabetes, autism, anxiety, depression, and terminal illness to the list of qualified conditions for the medical cannabis program,” Littrell said.
Jake Bergmann, CEO with Surterra, has been awarded a license to grow marijuana for cannabis oil in Florida.
“We will be investing about 13.5 million dollars into the market in Florida and we are willing to do the same in Georgia… We are ready to go under HB 1, as soon as you decide you want to go,” Bergmann told the Commission.
It is a better option to have a regulated in-state industry where one knows the product is organic and pure, Bergmann said.
Unfortunately, law enforcement members on the Commission voted against that option because it would violate federal laws, leaving patients with the only option of violating federal laws by smuggling it into Georgia.
Peake believes with more information on the Minnesota Model, that a reasoned argument can be made to set up a restricted regulatory structure in Georgia that will calm the fears of law enforcement and help patients legally access the oil.
A new statewide poll shows 84 percent of Georgians polled want in-state production and distribution of cannabis oil for medical purposes.
“I am very disappointed that Governor Deal chose to voice his opinion against any expansion on the law when the poll released Monday show that 84 percent were in favor of cannabis oil. This is an issue that should be decided between a doctor and patient,” Underwood said.