The state Department of Public Health said Tuesday that it is working hard on getting a registration process ready for potential users of medical cannabis oil in Georgia.
The registry is created by House Bill 1, which allows some Georgians with medical conditions to have access to medical cannabis. The measure establishes a process whereby patients with one of eight diagnoses, and a recommendation from a doctor, would register for cannabis oil use with Public Health.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill into law in mid-April. Public Health has up to 60 days to establish the registry and to issue cards to the public.
Shawn Ryan, a spokesman for Public Health, said Tuesday that 13 temporary cannabis cards have been issued. “Temporary cards are not widely available,” Ryan emphasized after the agency board meeting Tuesday.
Most have gone to Georgia families with children in Colorado, he said.
State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), the sponsor of HB 1, has said a goal of his legislation was to “bring our medical refugees home.” Peake was referring to Georgia parents who are living with their ailing children in Colorado to give the youngsters access to medical cannabis. Colorado’s relaxed marijuana laws have made it a magnet for families whose children need the treatment.
Earlier this year, Peake said 17 Georgia families were living in Colorado as medical refugees. Two of the children in those families have passed away since then, Ryan said Tuesday.
The eight diagnoses in line for this treatment are cancer; ALS; seizure disorders related to epilepsy or trauma related head injuries; multiple sclerosis; Crohn’s disease; mitochondrial disease; Parkinson’s disease; and sickle-cell disease.
Under the new law, possession of cannabis remains illegal for the general public in Georgia, so the card system will be used to get the substance to people who have a medical need for it.
An individual with a verified need, or that person’s caregiver, will be issued a registration card from Public Health that would allow them to possess the cannabis oil.
The legislation does not address how the cannabis is procured, which remains a major hurdle for families. “DPH and the state play no role in that,’’ Ryan added.
Creating a registry will involve IT work, training, and outreach to the public, physicians and law enforcement, Ryan said.
“We want to get this right,’’ he said, “to have a viable system going forward.”
Separately Tuesday, the Public Health board noted that the agency’s commissioner, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, and the department were recognized for their work by House Resolution 916.
Lawmakers cited, among other Public Health accomplishments, the agency’s work in reducing fraud in the WIC program; encouraging school districts to go tobacco-free and to adopt fitness programs; lowering early elective baby deliveries; immunizing children; and monitoring travelers for Ebola.