Ge­or­gia bill to al­low HIV, AIDS pa­tients med­i­cal mar­i­juana ac­cess

House Bill 65 ex­pands state’s Low THC Oil Registry pro­gram to eight more con­di­tions

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House Bill 65 is now in the hands of the state Se­nate, which means Ge­or­gia HIV and AIDS pa­tients could be weeks away from ac­cess to med­i­cal mar­i­juana to treat their symp­toms.

HB 65, in­tro­duced this ses­sion by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Ma­con), ex­pands the num­ber of con­di­tions el­i­gi­ble for Ge­or­gia’s Low THC Oil Registry, which was set up in 2015.

“We tried to add con­di­tions, even the first go-around, that were con­sis­tent with what’s done in other states that have med­i­cal cannabis leg­is­la­tion,” Peake said. “Of the 42 states that have some type of cannabis leg­is­la­tion, al­most half the states in­clude AIDS and HIV.”

THC, the short­hand for tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol, is the psy­choac­tive chem­i­cal found in mar­i­juana. CBD, or cannabid­iol, on the other hand, pro­vides ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits. Peake said Ge­or­gia’s law caps at 5 per­cent THC oil be­cause that pro­vides ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fit for a wide range of ill­nesses with­out caus­ing the high as­so­ci­ated with recre­ational use of mar­i­juana.

“HB 65 passed the House last week over­whelm­ingly. I think it was 156 to 6,” Peake said. “We’re hope­ful that the Se­nate would agree with it. They passed a ver­sion of the bill that added autism, where we were look­ing to add eight con­di­tions. I’m hope­ful that my col­leagues will see the need to ex­pand this suc­cess­ful law to as many cit­i­zens as pos­si­ble.” HB 65 is also im­por­tant to Dr. Rasean Hodge of At­lanta’s Pre­miere Chronic Pain Care. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a po­ten­tial treat­ment for his pa­tients, it could treat Hodge’s

March 17, 2017

own pe­riph­eral neu­ropa­thy.

“I’m in the 30308, and this ZIP code is the fifth-high­est HIV rate in the coun­try,” he said. “That’s right here in my clinic. … I know for a fact that med­i­cal cannabis will help these HIV-pos­i­tive pa­tients, and of course [those] with AIDS.”

How it works

In 1991, sci­en­tists dis­cov­ered the en­do­cannabi­noid sys­tem. The cannabi­noid chem­i­cals found in mar­i­juana “fit to our nat­u­ral re­cep­tors like a lock and key,” Hodge said.

The CBD helps with pain, mus­cle spasms, ap­petite and mem­ory, for starters, he said.

“The Health Ef­fects of Cannabis and Cannabi­noids: The Cur­rent State of Ev­i­dence and Rec­om­men­da­tions for Re­search,” a 2017 re­view pub­lished by The Na­tional Acad­e­mies of Sciences, En­gi­neer­ing and Medicine, looks at a large num­ber of stud­ies re­lated to how med­i­cal mar­i­juana can treat a host of dis­eases and ill­nesses.

Ac­cord­ing to the pub­li­ca­tion, “there was some ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing that cannabi­noids were ef­fec­tive in weight gain in HIV.” How­ever, avail­able data is older, “largely due to the vir­tual dis­ap­pear­ance of the syn­drome since ef­fec­tive an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­a­pies be­came avail­able in the mid-1990s.” An­other ob­sta­cle to fur­ther re­search lies in the fact that mar­i­juana is a con­trolled sub­stance, mak­ing it harder to study per fed­eral reg­u­la­tions.

There is a cannabis-de­rived pill on the mar­ket called Mari­nol, which is pre­scribed to pa­tients with HIV/AIDS to as­sist with weight-loss symp­toms. The dif­fer­ences be­tween these forms of med­i­cal mar­i­juana are de­liv­ery meth­ods — how the drug en­ters the body — and the time it takes to take ef­fect.

“We know that the oil can take 10 to 15 min­utes to on­set. In­hala­tion is im­me­di­ate. There are stud­ies show­ing no link from cannabis smok­ing to lung cancer,” Hodge said.

Other de­liv­ery meth­ods in­clude in­hal­ing the va­por­ized cannabis oil, tinc­tures, sup­pos­i­to­ries and der­mal patches — sim­i­lar to a nico­tine patch.

The next fron­tier

“We knew it was go­ing to be a very tough sell to move any type of med­i­cal cannabis leg­is­la­tion. I’ve been a strong ad­vo­cate that I’m not sup­port­ive of recre­ational use of mar­i­juana — that’s an is­sue some­body else is go­ing to have to fight,” Peake said. “We tried to fo­cus on the med­i­cal cannabis oil that doesn’t fo­cus on smok­ing.”

Even if HB 65 is signed into law, Ge­or­gians who can ob­tain the low THC oil must over­come mul­ti­ple hur­dles to do so. The main one, Peake said, is where to get the prod­uct.

“At this point, the very low THC prod­uct, be­low 0.3 per­cent THC, can be shipped from other states be­cause it’s con­sid­ered hemp, and that’s a very gray area in the fed­eral law. That’s how some fam­i­lies are get­ting that prod­uct,” Peake said. “For some that are get­ting an el­e­vated level that’s al­lowed un­der Ge­or­gia law, they have to go to an­other state that pro­duces the prod­uct and bring it back.”

How­ever, be­cause med­i­cal cannabis is not le­gal in all 50 states, pa­tients are then risk­ing fed­eral law by trans­port­ing a con­trolled sub­stance across state lines.

“The end game, the real so­lu­tion, is an in­state cul­ti­va­tion model where we can grow it, process and dis­trib­ute it,” Peake said.

He said Ge­or­gia Com­mis­sioner of Agri­cul­ture Gary W. Black had been ap­proached about this sub­ject, but no real plans or dis­cus­sions have yet taken place.

“It hasn’t been a pub­lic health is­sue. It hasn’t been a pub­lic safety risk. We don’t have peo­ple driv­ing around un­der the in­flu­ence of med­i­cal cannabis oil of 5 per­cent THC,” Peake said. “More than half the coun­try now has leg­is­la­tion on the books to al­low this cul­ti­va­tion. The sky has not fallen. So I think it’s proper that, if we’re go­ing to al­low the le­gal pos­ses­sion of med­i­cal cannabis oil for our cit­i­zens, we ought to al­low them to be able to ac­cess it in their state.”

State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Ma­con)

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