Children with seizure disorders have led the initial wave of patients registered for medical marijuana use in Georgia, state officials said Tuesday.
State Department of Public Health officials said cancer was the second-leading diagnosis for registrants.
The agency last month launched its Web portal and registration cards for medical cannabis oil. A law passed earlier this year made it legal for some people to possess the oil for medical purposes. Physicians can apply for a card on behalf of a patient with one of eight medical conditions.
The program is strictly regulated, and possession of marijuana products remains illegal for the general public in Georgia.
Two-thirds of the Georgians newly registered for medical marijuana are under age 17. And the most prevalent diagnosis for the cannabis oil is seizure disorder, Donna Moore, state registrar overseeing the agency’s vital records section, told a Public Health board meeting.
She said 54 patients have been registered so far.
Patients and caregivers of patients who obtain a card are allowed to possess 20 fluid ounces of “low THC” oil within the state of Georgia. THC is the ingredient in marijuana that produces the “high.”
House Bill 1, passed by the Legislature, allowed the use of medical marijuana for people with 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.
The plight of young patients was front and center in the debate over medical marijuana in the state.
State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), the main sponsor of the legislation, said during the General Assembly session that a goal was to bring Georgia’s “medical refugees’’ home.
Peake was referring to Georgia parents living with their ailing children in Colorado to give the youngsters access to medical cannabis. Colorado’s relaxed marijuana laws had made it a magnet for families whose children needed the treatment.
Those medical refugees were among the first patients registered, said Shawn Ryan, a Public Health spokesman. He said the agency created the secure Web portal and registration system in just two months after HB 1 was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Moore said 66 caregiver cards for registrants have been approved so far. Both parents of a child may receive a card, which contains information for law enforcement to verify.
The fee for a card is $25. “We are treating this card as a vital record,’’ Moore said.
She said 96 physicians who applied to register their patients have already been approved. Of the remaining 30 applicants, 26 are still being evaluated.
“Four were denied access to registering,’’ Moore said. These individuals either were not listed in the Georgia Composite Medical Board database or were not physicians at all, she said.
“One was a teenager,’’ she added.