Local families living with seizure disorders welcomed Governor Nathan Deal’s executive order this week greenlighting cannabis oil medical treatment in Georgia, but emphasized that they remain committed to in-state growing.
Deal signed an executive order this week ordering state agencies to start preparing now for the implementation of Georgia’s new medical marijuana bill.
The bill, which Deal has vowed to sign into law as soon as the legislative session ends on April 2, provides immunity for possession of cannabis oil for registered patients and caregivers inside Georgia.
However, the original legislation authored by Representative Allen Peake was stripped of its in-state growing mechanism, leaving those who need the medicine in a difficult position.
While some cannabis oil manufacturers have expressed willingness to ship their product, transporting cannabis products over state lines remains a federal offense.
Covington resident Mike Hopkins, whose daughter, Michala, had to be moved to Colorado to receive cannabis oil treatment for seizures, attended the signing ceremony and called the bill a "great positive step."
"The mood has changed so that’s giving us a lot of hope," said Hopkins.
Hopkins said his daughter is making too much progress on her current regime to be uprooted. He also expressed concern over the legality of importing her medicine into Georgia and the quality of product available. He seemed optimistic, however, that action on the state or federal level will eventually allow his family to return home to Georgia.
The CARERs Act, proposed in the U.S. Senate several weeks ago, would remove a key barrier by effectively making cannabis oil legal on a federal level.
Hopkins was confident Deal would consider legalizing in state growing, which was removed from the original bill, once the special commission created by the law released its findings.
"I don’t think he’s just talking; I think he’s sincere," said Hopkins of Deal. "[The job's] not done and we’ve got to make sure that...everybody follows through on this."
Deal has struck a cautious tone on in-state growing, which affected families maintain is crucial for the law’s long-term success.
"There's a lot riding on the line for people and we want it to work; we don’t want just one measure to say 'we've done something'," Hopkins concluded.
Casandra Bechtol, whose 11-year-old son has been on anti-seizure medication since he was born, also characterized the bill as “a step in the right direction.”
“We’ve got to eventually get to in-state cultivate, which is what we want,” she said.
The bill recognizes a small handful of conditions for cannabis oil treatment: seizure disorders, cancer, Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson's and sickle cell anemia.