Gov. Deal expands medical marijuana law to include AIDS

A bill that expands Georgia's medical marijuana program to include people with AIDS and five other conditions was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal. 

Deal signed Senate Bill 16 on Tuesday, capping a two-year effort by state Rep. Allen Peake (photo), a Macon Republican, to expand the state program he helped create in 2015. The program allows patients registered with the state to possess cannabis oil to treat eight specific illnesses. Now that number grows to 14.

Peake's effort to expand the program failed in the closing days of the legislative session in 2016. But the measure made it through the political process – with a few twists and turns and political compromise – in March. The measure adds AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome to the list of conditions eligible for the medical marijuana program.

Peake praised the governor's actions in a prepared statement.

“With Governor Deal’s signature today, Georgia’s medical cannabis program takes another positive step forward,” Peake said. " I’m confident that the addition of six conditions to this very successful program will allow even more hurting Georgians with debilitating illnesses to have a ray of hope for a better quality of life."

But Peake isn't stopping. He wants to revive his effort to amend the state constitution to allow the in-state production and sale of cannabis oil. Peake introduced House Resolution 36 earlier this year, but it failed to gain traction.

"My hope is that in 2018 we can fill the gaping hole that still remains and provide legal access to medical cannabis oil here in our state with a safe, lab tested product produced within our own borders. The job will not be finished until we accomplish this task," Peake said.

Some 1,738 people and 354 doctors are registered with the state's Low THC Oil Registry program, Peake said.