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Posted: March 3, 2014 7:33 p.m.

Ga. House approves medical cannabis bill

ATLANTA (AP) — Patients diagnosed with certain illnesses could take a form of medical marijuana under a plan that that the Georiga House of Representatives approved 171-4 Monday.

Among the biggest debates in the house this year, the proposed bill allows people suffering from the side effects of cancer treatment, glaucoma and some seizure disorders to take products derived from cannabis in the hope it will ease their symptoms.

The bill now heads to the senate.

The cannabis could be given to patients orally as a liquid, a pill or through injections. State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, H,B. 885's sponsor, said the cannabis could bring relief for children who suffer from hundreds of seizures daily. He said cannabis oil is low in THC, the active ingredient that produces the marijuana high.

"It is not a slippery slope toward legalization of cannabis for recreational use," Peake said. "I stand firmly against that direction and will fight it with all my energy."

Several politicians acknowledged they were initially reluctant to change statewide drug policy during an election year, but Peake urged them not to delay by setting up study committees or holding the bill until next year.

"We cannot move fast enough," he said.

Janea Cox hugged her daughter, Haleigh, during the vote. Her daughter has up to 100 seizures daily, and she had lobbied for the legislation - the bill was named "Haleigh's Hope Act" in Haleigh's honor.

"We are all so overwhelmed right now," Cox said, crying. "We had so much support in there I can't imagine it not passing. It's crazy to be a part of history. I think we're all in shock right now."

There were skeptics. Rep. Sharon Cooper, chairwoman of the Health and Human Service Committee, voted for the proposal but cautioned that it is flawed. Cooper said research colleges that provide medical marijuana under the proposed law could lose federal funding and their officials could be prosecuted.

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