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State commission rejects calls for growing medical marijuana in Georgia

GAINESVILLE — A state commission is backing Gov. Nathan Deal in refusing to support the cultivation and distribution of marijuana in Georgia for medicinal use.

“There’s no appetite for cultivation,” said state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, a member of the Commission on Medical Cannabis. “Until you have a clear model … there are too many vague concepts about cultivation for me to be comfortable with it.”

Lawmakers last spring approved the use of cannabis oil to treat eight medical conditions, but the prospect of manufacturing and selling the drug in-state was left for the commission to review.

The majority of members voted Wednesday to expand the number of conditions legally treatable with the drug, but declined to pursue the issue of access any further.

Despite the setback, activists said they remained motivated.

“We really thought [the commission] was coming into it open-minded, but it doesn’t seem that way now,” said Hall County resident Katie Harrison. “So we just have a bigger fight against us.”

Harrison’s son, Hawk, uses cannabis oil to treat seizures resulting from a brain hemorrhage when he was just 3 weeks old. He is now 3 years old.

The drug is known to have anti-anxiety effects, among other beneficial properties, and strains used to treat seizure disorders like those Hawk experiences lack the levels of THC, a psychoactive ingredient, that gets marijuana smokers high.

Though Harrison can possess up to 20 fluid ounces of cannabis oil with low levels of THC, access to the drug has remained a challenge.

Miller said he isn’t convinced that the state can effectively regulate cultivation in a way that doesn’t contribute to recreational marijuana use.

He also cited concerns from law enforcement officials that federal prohibitions on marijuana would put the state on shaky legal ground if it explored in-state access.

However, Miller said he understands that the discussion will continue and expects several bills to be introduced next year calling for in-state cultivation.

Harrison said that while she was disappointed by Wednesday’s outcome, she’s ready to begin again.

“We’re not giving up … we knew it was going to be hard,” Harrison said.