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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