By Patrick Hedden
In March, House Bill 885, a medical marijuana research bill which would legalize possession of the oil derived from a strain of marijuana called Charlotte’s Web, was overwhelmingly supported by legislators in the Georgia General Assembly.
HB 885 was introduced to the Georgia House of Representatives by Representative Alan Peake, a Republican from Macon, GA. The bill passed the house vote in early March with 171 Yea votes and 4 Nay votes.
The bill was then sponsored in the Georgia Senate by Senator Renee Unterman who attached a mandate which would require insurance companies to expand coverage for this treatment to those suffering from autism.
In the Senate, the bill passed unanimously and was sent back to the House for further negotiation due to the added mandate. Unfortunately, as the General Assembly came to a close on March 21, arguments from opposing House members prevented a final ratification.
While most of the press coverage has focused on how Charlotte’s Web can treat seizures in children, leafly.com, a website which provides information on strains of marijuana says, “Charlotte’s Web is… a good option for treating seizures as well as other medical conditions. This medical potency is due to its high-CBD content.”
ProjectCBD.org defines CBD as “Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound in cannabis that has significant medical effects, but does not make people feel ‘stoned’. The reduced psychoactivity of CBD-rich cannabis may make it an appealing treatment option for patients seeking anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and/or anti-spasm effects without disconcerting lethargy or dysphoria.”
Chemotherapy, a common treatment used to fight cancer, attacks healthy cells as well as causes a great deal of nausea and loss of appetite. According to HB 885, “Continuing studies throughout the nation indicate that marijuana and certain of its derivatives possess valuable and, in some cases, unique therapeutic properties, including the ability to relieve nausea and vomiting which routinely accompany chemotherapy and irradiation used to treat cancer patients.”
GPC students, Fathima Mumin and Halla Fakhoury support medical marijuana research as a new treatment option for family members who have struggled with the debilitating symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy treatments; however, they do not plan on experimenting with marijuana themselves.
Mumin’s uncle has had cancer for nine years. When asked if she would support the legalization of medical marijuana, Mumin said, “I think it would be helpful despite the stereotypes; the economy would greatly benefit from marijuana.”
Fakhoury’s grandmother has been battling breast cancer for two years. She agreed, “If research shows that it makes a difference, then trying it would be beneficial! So, it could be helpful but people are developing ignorance towards the subject.”
In order to avoid legal trouble at the federal level, HB 885 states, “Nothing in this legislation should be construed… as any intent of the General Assembly to be moving in the direction of the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana or other controlled substances.”
The nail in the coffin, however, for HB 885 was the additional mandate of including coverage for autism sufferers. According to the Creative Loafing, that amendment had “minimal support among state reps.”
The original bill only provided coverage for certain seizure disorders, glaucoma patients, and cancer patients. Due to this failure, the bill will have to be reintroduced during next year’s General Assembly. For students like Mumin and Fakhoury, their families will have wait another year.