MACON, Ga. — It's been a little over a month now since medical marijuana became legal to buy and sell in Georgia. Trulieve and Botanical Sciences are the only two companies approved. Trulieve is the only company to have operational dispensaries. One location is in Macon on Riverside Drive.
Leslie Johns says her son Darrell used to have seizures all the time. She originally had him on pharmaceutical medications, but nothing worked until she eventually had him try cannabis oil. Darrell Johns was born with hydrocephalus and epilepsy. He's now 21.
Before medical marijuana dispensaries opened in Georgia in late April, Leslie had to order his oil online and it took several days to get to her, but now, "To drive 15 minutes and go pick up a bottle and go back home, it's amazing," she said.
It's been a long time coming for Leslie and Darrell. She fought to get her son treatment most of his life, making several trips to Atlanta to meet with lawmakers.
"When Governor Deal stood up to get a group picture, Darrell grabbed his hand and kissed it as if to say, 'Thank you.' He has no words -- he's nonverbal," said Johns.
Former State Representative Allen Peake filed a bill in 2014 to legalize the medication. Then-Governor Nathan Deal signed the medical marijuana bill into law in 2015.
The law was named "Haleigh's Hope," after Haleigh Cox, a young girl who had hundreds of seizures a day. Cox is a Monroe County girl whose family started using cannabis oil to help with her seizures. Peake then fought eight years to get the licensed dispensaries here in Georgia.
"Don't have to go to these extreme measures to be able to find it. Medical cannabis oil provides a significant amount of relief and peace for these families," Peake said.
The Johns were at the capitol again when Governor Brian Kemp signed cultivation into law in 2019.
"It was four years, then four more years, and here we are four more years later," Johns said.
Leslie hopes it will take less than four more years to get higher THC in the future. On June 14, the Georgia Board of Pharmacy will hold a public hearing to debate whether to expand access to medical cannabis to local pharmacies.