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Georgia state lawmakers OK medical marijuana as seizure treatment

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia measure that would legalize use of a liquid, non-intoxicating form of marijuana for patients with severe seizure disorders has been passed by the state House of Representatives with wide support.

Lawmakers approved the legislation on Monday in a 171-4 bipartisan vote, and the bill, which would limit availability of medical marijuana to a handful of research facilities, now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

The measure's sponsor, Republican Representative Allen Peake, said he had become interested in the issue after learning about a constituent's 4-year-old daughter, who suffers from a seizure disorder.

"This really was a human story," Peake said in an interview on Tuesday. "I couldn't be more proud of my colleagues for the courageous vote they cast."

Medical marijuana in various forms is legal in 20 states. Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and at least six others are considering legalizing it, according to Washington-based pro-marijuana group NORML.

If the Georgia medical marijuana bill becomes law, patients would only be able to obtain the drug from five university research centers in the state, Peake said.

Georgia law already allows these medical research facilities to dispense marijuana to cancer and glaucoma patients, although a state board has never been authorized to administer the program, according to Peake. His legislation would activate the board and include seizure disorders in the program.

In Alabama, a bill called Carly's law, initiated to help a toddler with violent seizures, was filed in the first days of the legislative session that convened on January 14.

The measure, which is still in committee review, also makes it legal to possess a prescribed medical-grade extract known as cannabidiol, or CBD, which is not intoxicating.

Florida lawmakers also are considering legalizing CBD, which has shown promising results for controlling seizures.

The strain is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound that gives users the feeling of being high. The product has no value to traditional marijuana consumers and comes as an oil.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Von Ahn)

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