Even though “legal”, users of medical cannabis still face many difficulties

Article submitted with names withheld. Special thanks to State Representative Allen Peake for helping us obtain this story.

We are the parents of a child with a severe seizure disorder, and since 2013 we have been fighting alongside the most amazing families for access to medical cannabis. Four legislative sessions later, two bills have passed that allow possession of up to 5% THC cannabis oil for 15 conditions, with a doctor’s permission, but no way to access the oil.

We feel defeated because the law is grossly inadequate, and a handful of top legislators are still blocking actual access to this life-saving medicine. About 60% to 80% of the people with cards in Georgia have a condition that requires a product with greater than 0.3% THC and therefore cannot be shipped from another state. We need in-state cultivation of medical cannabis products so the over 3,000 current legally registered patients can actually access the medicine our government has said we can possess.

Cannabis Passed Georgia Senate
In 2017, the Georgia Senate, in a nearly unanimous vote, approved Medical Marijuana. They joined the Georgia House which sent the bill to Governor Nathan Deal, who signed it into law. Even though it is legal to use, it is not legal to cultivate and this causes a number of difficulties for patients. Photo from Georgia’s Hope Facebook page.

To actually get the oil today, patients must either 1) smuggle it illegally across the country, or 2) buy street product and make their own oil with no confidence in the product’s safety or efficacy. One gracious individual is donating oil from another state in order to try to circumvent this absurd reality, but obviously has a very limited supply.

We have no idea how the oil gets here, but once we have it, we’re allowed to possess it with our card, and then give it to others who also have a card – with no money exchanging hands since the medicine is donated. The following is an example of a single day of how legally registered patients are meeting each other to actually get this medicine.

Saturday 9am – We meet a cancer patient at a gas station to give him a bottle of cannabis oil that is 1:1 CBD (Cannabidiol) to THC. He says, “I just want to thank you all so much for providing this oil. The doctors say that I don’t have much time left, but I don’t have as much nausea, I eat more, and I’ve even cut my pain pill dosage in half.” We inform him that even though it’s working, we unfortunately can’t guarantee another bottle for him when he runs out.

10am – We meet a teenage Crohn’s patient’s mother in a strip mall parking lot to give her a bottle of the 1:1 CBD to THC product. “My son is doing so well on this,” she tells us. “He missed so much school last year, but hasn’t had a single flare-up this year and hasn’t missed a day of school. Our doctor can’t really help us since he doesn’t know much about it, but he’s noticed an improvement in his scans and said just keep doing what you’re doing.”

1pm – We meet a mom with an autistic child in another parking lot. We give her a concentrated THC spray (less than 5%). “I spray this in my son’s mouth twice a day. His rage episodes have almost completely subsided and we have our happy, easy going son back after many years of struggling just to get through the day. My doctor is now a believer.” She obviously also has concerns about the availability of the next bottle and the only thing we can tell her is to reach out to her state legislators so they’ll know the success she is seeing and understand that we desperately need these products here.

4pm – I run out to the local gas station to meet a parent who drove two hours to get a bottle of THCa. “We’ve tried high CBD products but they haven’t reduced my son’s seizures. THCa has been amazing for his seizure control.” I tell her this is exactly why our doctors need access to local products so they can help us determine what is best for each patient. Please call your legislators is the mantra I repeat again.

8pm to 11pm – My wife spends the evening, as she does most evenings, responding to emails from patients with MS, peripheral neuropathy, etc., who are seeing success and able to cut their opioids and pain pills even with what little cannabis oil they can get their hands on. They all ask how they can get a safe, consistent product. They rightfully can’t understand how in the world our government would pass a law allowing you to have something you can’t actually get. Again, we respond, “Please call your legislators.” So many more people could be helped if they weren’t forced to fend for themselves.

Everyone is worried where their next bottle will come from. Will there be enough supply from the donator? Why do we have to rely on one person’s generosity? Our doctors want us to have this life-saving medicine. It shouldn’t have to be this way.