Medical marijuana bill would help people with HIV

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The more than 39,000 Georgians living with HIV or AIDS are one step closer to getting access to medical cannabis oil, now that Rep. Allen Peake's medical marijuana bill passed the state House. 

The legislation from the Macon Republican was trimmed back by lawmakers before it gained House approval 152-8 on Feb. 29, but it still expands the list of conditions that would quality someone to legally possess an oil derived from cannabis plants to 15. The expanded list now includes HIV, along with autism spectrum disorders, Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

HIV was cut from the list of medical conditions in Peake's medical marijuana legislation that became law in 2015.

The lawmaker expressed his disappointment that the current legislation, House Bill 722, no longer includes in-state cultivation, provisions that were stripped out by a House committee before the full floor vote.

“Clearly I didn’t make a strong enough case for the need for a regulated infrastructure, for cultivation of medical cannabis in our state. But each of us needs to note, this issue is not going away,” Peake said from the House floor on Feb. 29.

Multiple Republicans spoke in favor of the bill from the House floor, although some continued to express concerns that it's moving the state along a path of full legalization.
 
“If I vote yes, I am going to expect the sponsor of this bill to fight as passionately against full legalization, which is where we are going, as he has fought to get to this point,” said Rep. Randy Nix, a Republican from LaGrange.

Peake said that, to date, almost 600 Georgians have signed up for the patient registry in order to legally receive cannabis oil.

Sharing testimony from parents and caregivers who have seen their loved ones benefit from cannabis oil, Peake said, “I hope that helps you understand why our true blue, God-fearing, law-abiding citizens are willing to risk their freedom to obtain medicine that can change the life of a loved one.”

HIV experts have said that medical marijuana can impact several side effects of HIV and the drugs used to treat it. Via HIV Plus Mag: 

People with HIV have long realized that cannabis can ease many HIV-related conditions, including nausea, loss of appetite, depression, weight loss, and neuropathic pain. In addition to treating common symptoms of HIV and side effects of antiretroviral drugs.

Peake's bill still needs Senate approval before it heads to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. 

Peake, who has a gay brother, stepped into the raging debate over anti-gay “religious freedom” legislation this week, offering what he called compromise legislation with fellow Republican Rep. Beth Beskin. 

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