In just a matter of weeks, a proposal to legalize the use of medical marijuana to treat seizures has captured the attention of Georgia...

In just a matter of weeks, a proposal to legalize the use of medical marijuana to treat seizures has captured the attention of Georgia lawmakers, the public and the state’s medical community.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) is expected to introduce such legislation Tuesday in the Georgia General Assembly. His position on the issue, he said, arose from a visit with a 4-year-old girl who suffers up to 100 seizures a day.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingThe bill would allow the parents of young epilepsy patients to apply to an academic medical center to get an oil derived from cannabis that may reduce their number of seizures.

The proposed legislation speaks only to an oil from plants that are high in therapeutic cannabidiol, or CBD, and low in hallucinogens, the Macon Telegraph reported.

The health care community has begun to weigh in on the topic. The Medical Association of Georgia says it supports such legislation.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta sees more than 300 kids with intractable seizures. The health system said in a statement Tuesday that it would support legislation allowing further clinical research on using the cannabidiol compound to treat intractable seizures in children.

CHOA said there has not been enough evidence-based research on the safety and tolerability of medical marijuana in children with seizure disorders and thus it should not be used generally.

The health care organization said it would support legislation under three conditions:

* The compound is available only as part of an Institutional Review Board-approved clinical study.

* The state has sufficient control of the manufacture and distribution of the product.

* Measures of safety and effectiveness are established.

Other states, meanwhile, are also grappling with the medical marijuana issue.

Florida voters will decide in November whether to legalize medical marijuana after the state Supreme Court approved an initiative to put the measure on the ballot.

If the petition is backed by 60 percent of voters in November, Florida would join 20 other states approving medical marijuana, Reuters reported.

Colorado and Washington state have gone much further on marijuana, allowing adults 21 and older to have up to an ounce of pot for recreational use.

Peake said he is strongly opposed to recreational use of marijuana.

State. Rep. Allen Peake

Rep. Allen Peake

But on the medicinal side, Peake told WABE that his mind changed on the issue when he met 4-year-old Haleigh Cox this month in an Atlanta hospital. Haleigh has up to 100 seizures per day.

“Once I met Haleigh and just had an incredibly special time with her, I knew there was no way I could sit still on this issue,” said Peake.

Peake said passing the bill in a conservative state like Georgia might be a difficult task, WABE reported. But he said the fight is worth it.

“Almost every single constituency, when presented with the facts that it’s very restricted, managed by doctors, limited in scope to seizure disorders in an oil-based formula only and not smoked – once they realize it’s not a 6-year-old smoking a joint – most realize this is the compassionate thing to do,” Peake told WABE.

Recent polls have shown a majority of Georgians support the legalization of medical marijuana in limited cases.

In Peake’s proposal, the oil-based extract would come from Colorado.

Georgia already has a medical marijuana law, WABE noted. In 1980, legislators empowered a state-appointed board of physicians to prescribe cannabis sativa to cancer and glaucoma patients for clinical studies. But the board has remained inactive for at least 15 years.

Peake’s bill would reactivate that board.

Peake told the Macon Telegraph that Georgia parents should not have to leave their homes, jobs, churches and communities to move to Colorado, as the Coxes have considered.

The president of the Medical Association of Georgia, Dr. William Silver, said in a statement that his organization “applauds Rep. Peake for his efforts to help the limited number of families who require this kind of unique care in a thoughtful and deliberate and responsible way.”

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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  • wowFAD

    I strongly support Rep Peake’s bill. How those kids suffer day in, day out is tragic, and denying them access to a harmless plant that can help them is unconscionable.

    According to Rep Peake, the families of children in need will be able to get the CBD-rich cannabis extract oil from academic institutions within Georgia. If that happens, great. But how? I don’t see how the oil is going to get from Colorado to universities in Georgia without someone from the participating schools or someone from the GA state government driving across state lines to go get it.

    Maybe it’s best I don’t ask if they have a plan, already. I just don’t want what happened in Maryland to happen here. They tried to implement a program that was also very limited in scope, restricting access to any/all cannabis medicines to participating academic institutions. The problem was that there weren’t any universities willing to risk it — no schools participated, the law did *nothing* and helped *nobody*. They weren’t willing to break federal law.

    I strongly urge Rep Peake to make a list of schools who are ready and willing to risk federal repercussions to participate in this program. It would be tragic if Peake works hard to push through a bill that *doesn’t* help anyone.

  • Dr Ellie Campbell

    I strongly support Rep Peake’s effort. While I am never in favor of recreational use, the transdermal, sublingual or oral route of CBD oil is well studied and medically supported. Rarely is marijuana smoked for medicinal use. For the last several weeks, I have been in contact with Dr Mark Ware, a Canadian physician and world’s expert on the medical use of cannabinoids, with the intent of taking some CME on the endocannabinoid system and being among the best educated GA physicians. However, I too am worried that access as MAG sees it will be too restricted to help those that need it most, especially if it can only be accessed under clinical trials governed by an IRB. In my opinion, this palliative therapy can be used for many more indications than just seizures, including intractable pain or nausea, autoimmune diseases including Crohn’s, MS and encephalitis, HIV, glaucoma, myositis, and others. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have already done this before GA. We should learn much from them, and not enact a bill so restrictive it impedes fewer patients than it helps.

  • Charlotte Lamm

    I support this bill 100%. I want to see people with Multiple Sclerosis added to the list of people that it relieves MS Pain like nothing else does. I have tried the oil in CO; I put drops in my tea at night and NEVER slept without spasms waking me up like I did that night. My husband just retired, so we may be moving to CO as well. The ironical thing is I was so against it as a college student in the 70s!! I have shocked my family. If you know MS pain, you know why.

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