Medical marijuana bill approved, with a twist

Medical marijuana is one step closer to becoming legal in Georgia, but it's taken a different form from its original version that passed the House 171-4 last week.

The Senate Health and Human Services committee unanimously approved House Bill 885 on Wednesday, which would legalize a form of medical marijuana in Georgia.

But the bill now also requires insurance companies to cover autism treatment for children ages 6 and under.

A few minutes before the vote, the committee's chairwoman, Renee Unterman, said the medical marijuana bill will be combined with the autism bill.

"We also combined the autism bill with it. We're calling it the Care for Kids Act," Unterman told 13WMAZ. "All the people in this legislature care about the children of Georgia."

Unterman says they combined the bills because they were running out of time.

"We're getting to the end of the session, and it's always conflicting when you have so many bills to go through and you have to end the session next Thursday at 12 midnight," Unterman said.

Representative Allen Peake, who drafted the bill, says he'd prefer the medical marijuana bill on its own, but still believes its passing is a win for the state.

"I'd rather have seen it stay off but that was the will of the senate committee and I have to abide by their will," Peake said.

Other amendments to House Bill 885 include removing a provision allowing academic centers to grow medical marijuana.

On top of that, the bill also includes protection against prosecution for carrying prescription cannabis oil within state lines.

That's important to parents like Janea Cox, whose four-year-old daughter Haleigh suffers more than 200 seizures a day.

"Haleigh doesn't have much more time," Cox said.

Peake says he drafted the bill after hearing Haleigh's story, which we first brought to you a few months ago.

Cox asked the committee Wednesday to "open your hearts" and vote for the bill.

Despite the win in the Senate committee, Cox says she's packing up her bags and moving Haleigh to Colorado Thursday, where medical marijuana is already legal.

But one day, she hopes to come back home.

"I want to get my family back together. My husband's not going to see his daughter grow up and I want to be able to get back to Georgia. I'm willing to take that risk and hopefully we'll be able to bring back the medication that she needs," Cox said.

Supporters of the medical marijuana bill say we're one step closer to that now.

"A unanimous vote in the Senate committee, I think that's a huge statement," Peake said.

Peake, along with a district attorney, a medical doctor and family members of children suffering from seizure disorders testified before the Senate committee in favor of the bill.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

Committee chairwoman Renee Unterman says that could happen as soon as next Tuesday..

If approved, the bill will have to go back to the House to approve the amendments.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Twitter @anita_oh and on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment