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By Kristina Torres
The Georgia Senate on Thursday unanimously approved limited use of medical marijuana in Georgia, sending the legislation back to the state House with expectations of extended negotiations.
House Bill 885, by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, includes a separate mandate added by the Senate that would require health insurance policies sold in Georgia to cover behavioral therapy for children 6 and under who have been diagnosed with autism. The move could complicate passage for what Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, has dubbed the “Kids Care Act.”
The bill otherwise would provide immunity from prosecution to anyone who is in possession of the particular cannabis oil the bill wants to make legal. That would clear the way for patients and their parents to travel outside of Georgia to find a supply, most likely in Colorado because it allows the oil’s use in limited amounts.
HB 885 is designed to allow Georgia families to use cannabis oil to treat certain seizure disorders in both children and adults, afflictions that can cause hundreds of seizures a day and often lead to death. The oil is harvested from the marijuana plant but does not create the high that recreational use of marijuana produces.
Peake said he's no fan of the autism mandate, which he said imposes new requirements on businesses. He doesn't think the addition will kill his proposal, but he said he hopes it can be tacked on to a separate piece of legislation.
Supporters of the bill include the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia and the Medical Association of Georgia, the state’s largest professional group of physicians.
The Senate voted 54-0 to pass HB 885.