On Thursday, April 16, Georgia governor Nathan Deal made the highly regulated and limited use of cannabis oil legal in his state by signing the Haleigh’s Hope Act.
Named after Haleigh Cox, a five-year-old Georgia resident with a severe form of epilepsy, the law is surprising progress in an area of southern America that has, thus far, failed to follow the lead of medical cannabis pioneers like California, Oregon, and Colorado.
The oil, which is extracted from a strain of marijuana that’s low in THC, doesn’t give users the psychoactive effect and euphoric high of street varieties, making it perfect for both children and adults with jobs and careers. Instead of THC, this powerful extract is rich in the cannabinoid CBD, known for its unique pain reduction and nerve conditioning properties.
Before being allowed to possess and consume the oil, patients must first obtain a prescription from a doctor. Ironically, because cultivation of cannabis, even for medical purposes, remains illegal in Georgia, families are forced to acquire the organic oil from states where it is permitted, like Colorado or California.
Despite these barriers to safe, local access, patients with the following conditions will be permitted to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil:
- Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries.
- Multiple Sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
- Crohn’s Disease
- Mitochondrial Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
- Sickle Cell Disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
Notably lacking from the list is arthritis, depression, PTSD, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, and migraines, among many other conditions.
Ironically, Haleigh Cox and her family had already moved out of Georgia, to Colorado, at the time of the bill’s passage. The Georgia natives made the move simply to give Kindergarten-age Haleigh ready access to the only medicine that decreases her more than 200 seizures per day.
After doctors told Haleigh’s mother, Janea, that her daughter might have only three months to live — and the child would regularly stop breathing (a side effect of her anti-seizure medication) — Ms. Cox decided to make the move to Colorado Springs. Now that possession and use of the seizure-reducing oil are legal in the Peach State, the family plans to move back.
Weak in Comparison
While certainly progress, other states, like California and Oregon, have much more liberal and less restrictive medical marijuana laws in place. Patients in these states are allowed to grow, smoke, and consume a variety of forms of raw cannabis flowers (buds), hash, kief, oil, tinctures, and edibles.
Georgia’s law in also unusually strict in terms of requiring advanced forms of certain diseases. For example, the law allows the administration of cannabis oil only for “severe or end stage” levels of Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Many medical marijuana advocates will be frustrated that serious conditions, like early-stage Parkinson’s, aren’t covered by the law — especially considering that some research has pointed to the power of cannabis medicine to stop the progression of diseases like Altzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.
Better Than Before
However, the relief delivered to patients of all ages by this law is unquestionable. While it doesn’t provide a convenient means of production or access to the oil, the legislation gives patients like Haleigh Cox, who have tried other, more conventional pharmaceutical drugs and therapies, a new lease on life (and, in some cases, literally life itself).
There’s plenty of room for improvement in this law — such as the inclusion of several conditions that are standard in many other states — but Georgia’s newfound leniency toward medical cannabis is no doubt a positive sign in a state not known for its progressive social policies.