Georgia Senate passes expansion of limited medical marijuana law

(Reuters) - The Georgia state Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a bill that would expand the state’s limited medical marijuana law to include people with 15 medical conditions, up from nine currently.

The bill now goes to Governor Nathan Deal to sign into law.

Unlike many other U.S. states that have medical marijuana laws that allow smokable and edible forms of cannabis to be used by people who have a wide range of conditions, Georgia only allows cannabis oil and even then, for a limited number of maladies.

The state Senate passed the expansion by a 45-6 vote. The measure was earlier approved by Georgia’s House of Representatives.

Georgia’s limited medical marijuana law was enacted in 2015. If signed into law by Deal, the expansion will add to the initial nine conditions allowed by the state. The governor’s office declined to comment on whether Deal would sign the bill.

Users must be registered with state health officials and prove to be under a physician’s care for the conditions allowed in Georgia’s medical marijuana law.

State Senator Matt Brass said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he is part of the majority of lawmakers in Georgia who do not want to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Brass said he supported the expansion because he wanted those with autism to be allowed to be use cannabis oil after obtaining a doctor’s approval.

The bill as passed allows use for those with severe autism, Brass said. The other conditions that would be added include Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS and Tourette’s syndrome.

Current conditions allowed to use medical marijuana in the state include cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Crohn’s disease.

Georgia has about 1,300 people approved to use of cannabis oil for the initial nine conditions, according to Brass. He said he did know how many people would be affected by the expansion if signed into law.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; editing by Daniel Wallis, G Crosse