Nearly a year after the first medical marijuana bill failed in Georgia, those suffering and those fighting to relieve that pain are hopeful that won’t happen again.
As state lawmakers prepare for the next General Assembly in January, some things have changed.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 80 percent of Georgians support the legalization of medical marijuana.
Plus, in the recently passed federal spending bill, President Barack Obama and Congress blocked funding for the Department of Justice to penalize those with medical marijuana in states where it is already legal.
Congress approved, and President Barack Obama signed into law, a measure that eliminated funding for the Department of Justice to enforce federal laws blocking the use of medical marijuana in states that have their own laws on the books.
“Imagine, before you even have a thought in the morning, you wake up, just in agony,” Katie Crosby said.
She’s only 26, but for nearly half her life, Crosby has tried almost everything to stop the pain.
“The reality is, nothing’s working. Nothing.”
She calls her pain chronic, crippling.
“A living hell, a living nightmare to be honest.”
So in September, after testifying in front of a medical marijuana study committee led by state Representative Allen Peake, she started a Facebook group called Hope for Silent Sufferers.
It advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana in Georgia and has nearly 20,000 supporters.
That’s how she connected with people like Pamela Skinner, who’s felt that pain for decades.
“Day after day after day, it drains you,” Skinner said.
Doctors diagnosed Skinner with fibromyalgia in 1996, long-term pain that spreads throughout the body, plus degenerative disc disease.
“Anything physical poses a threat. I have grandbabies that weigh 30 pounds and I can’t pick them up,” Skinner said.
And though some research shows medical cannabis could help them, it’s illegal in Georgia.
“I don’t break laws. It needs to be passed so that people like me have access,” Skinner said.
And as 2015’s legislative session draws closer, they fear chronic pain might not be included in the medical marijuana bill.
“It’s just sad to me that you can live in one state and receive relief but not in another,” Crosby said.
Peake, who sponsored House Bill 1, says his committee’s been exploring a range of conditions that could be treated by medical cannabis.
“Seizure disorders, cancer, glaucoma, MS, ALS, autism, possibly chronic pain,” Peake said.
He says says likely only seven or eight of those conditions will be written into the bill, consistent with what’s been passed in other states.
He says that limited list is an effort to keep medical cannabis tightly regulated.
“It’s cannabis oil or an edible form, cannot be smoked, you cannot get high,” Peake said.
But he hopes there will be other options for those conditions that aren’t written into the bill.
“We’re looking at a provision where someone who has a condition that’s not on that list could appeal to the Department of Public Health,” he said.
It’s the relief Crosby hopes for, but she says it hinges on lawmakers, who research the benefits, and remember the afflicted.
“We may be suffering, but we’re no longer silent. Please don’t leave us behind,” Crosby said.
Peake says the idea is to have five or six growers, processors and retailers of medical marijuana across the state.
Those who can access it would receive a registration card, only after a diagnosis of a qualifying condition by a qualified doctor.
The General Assembly will gather starting January 12.