By Gloria Tatum Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA — The Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis–created by the General Assembly as part of a compromise with Gov. Nathan Deal, to explore in-state medical cannabis cultivation–met at the State Capitol on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 to discuss guidelines to access medical cannabis in Georgia.

One featured speaker was Brenda Fitzgerald, MD,, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, who spoke on the new Georgia Low THC Registration Card.

Mike Liszewski, Director of Government Affairs of Americans For Safe Access, spoke on various state marijuana laws and pending federal legislation.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, in the last Legislative Session, Georgia approved decriminalization of possession of low-THC cannabinoid oils that have been shown to be effective in treating several medical conditions.

However, no process was established for in-state cultivation of cannabis, meaning that individuals still risk breaking federal law to get the oil from another state and bringing it back to Georgia.

“Eighteen temporary medical marijuana cards have been issued for children with seizures and two other card for adults with end stage cancer,” Fitzgerald told the gathering.

Individuals with the following eight conditions–severe or end stage cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Sickle Cell disease, Crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, or seizure disorders related to epilepsy or head trauma–may qualify for Georgia’s low THC oil registration card.

Patients must sign a waiver that they understand the oil does not have approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The low THC oil registration card costs 25 dollars, and is good for two years. A qualified person can legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil with the card.

Initially, only eighteen county public health offices from across the state will issue the cards. For some people, it will be a two hour drive to the closest location. Once the system is working efficiently, the locations will expand to include other Georgia counties.

To apply for a low THC oil card a patient’s’ doctor will need to input your information electronically to the DPH website. The DPH will certify and license each patient. After that it will take approximately 15 days before you can pick up your card at one of the approved locations.

The law, HB 1, does not address how low THC oil is made, purchased, or shipped. It only ensues qualified persons are protected from prosecution for having the oil in their possession in Georgia.

Patients must smuggle the oil into Georgia and risk federal prosecution when they cross state lines with the low THC oil.

For more information on signing up for the medical marijuana card, go to the Georgia DPH website:

The next speaker, Mr. Liszewski, explained to the Commission how state and federal laws are changing to protect medical cannabis patients.

“The first evidence of medical marijuana use goes back five thousand years. Today, there are over fifteen thousand peer review scientific articles on the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis and cannabinoids,” Liszewski said.

Thirty-nine U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and Guam have some form of medical cannabis patient protection. Thirteen states have full medical cannabis access, do not put limits on the THC percentages, and allow for a variety of medical conditions .

“States with these programs have seen drops in opioid overdoses and highway fatalities and have not experienced an increase in teen usage,” Liszewski said.

Liszewski gave examples of some of the federal legislation pending, such as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment and the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act of 2015 (CARERS).

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment bans the U.S. Department of Justice from spending money to prevent the implementation of state-level medical cannabis programs; and removes funding for federal medical cannabis raids, arrests, and prosecutions in states where medical cannabis is legal.

CARERS amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II. CARERS would make the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment permanent and protect all legal state medical marijuana patients from federal interference.

Atlanta Progressive News has been tracking the Senate version of the CARERS Act, S. 683, noting that it has slowly been gaining a bipartisan array of co-sponsors, especially from states that already have legal medical cannabis programs.

Currently, twelve U.S. Senators support the bill, including U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Dean Heller (R-NV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

“The laws are determining that marijuana is medicine, and the human body determined it was medicine long ago,” Liszewski said.

The ideal process for defining qualifying medical conditions is determined by a patient’s physician, Liszewski explained. Most states have a board of physicians who do this work; or it is the purview of a state’s health department, not the legislative process, to add conditions.

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) inquired about a good state model for Georgia to look at to better access the product. Liszewski recommended the Arizona and Maryland’s programs, and suggested the use of greenhouses as the most efficient and environmentally sound approach for cultivation in Georgia.

Rep. Peake said he would like to see a limited license process for private enterprise as Georgia’s distribution system.

“Congress needs to change the damn law!” Rep. Peake said.

“It is imperative for Congress to act to stop making criminals out of Moms and Dads who want to help their children and citizens who need medical cannabis for pain.”

There is also legislation pending in Congress to allow transportation of cannabidiol oil across state lines and to take it out of a controlled substance classification altogether.

From Georgia’s Congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) has co-sponsored S. 1333, the Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act 2015; and U.S. Reps. Austin Scott (R-GA), David Scott (D-GA), and Rob Woodall (R-GA) have co-sponsored HB 1635, Charlotte’s Web Medical Access Act.

U.S. Sen. Isakson recently announced he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, one of the conditions in Georgia for which the possession of CBD oil is allowed.

Americans for Safe Access is advancing legal medical marijuana therapeutics and research. For additional information on state laws, which are different from state to state, and your civil rights as a medical marijuana patient, go to their website: