Image of  Ava Fowler, 8, of Clarkesville, Georgia.
House Bill 1, a Georgia bill that would have allowed parents to legally obtain cannabis oil (CBD) to treat their children’s seizure disorders, among other illnesses, has died before the bill was ever introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives.
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The bill, sponsored by District 141 Rep. Allen Peake, was scheduled to be introduced in the House Jan. 13. However, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Jan. 9 his support of a different bill – one, as yet unwritten – that would provide immunity for parents possessing the medication. It would not allow growing, processing or selling the oil in Georgia. 
 
House Bill 1 was not the first attempt to legalize CBD oil. Last year, Peake proposed HB 855, essentially the same bill, which passed in the Georgia House 171 to 4, but died in the Senate. 
 
One Clarkesville mother, Sarabeth Fowler, whose daughter, Ava, 8, suffers from intractable epilepsy, was hopeful about HB 855 last year, and she was hopeful about the reborn bill, House Bill 1. Tuesday, the day HB 1 was planned to be introduced, District 28 Rep. Dan Gasaway said he supported the bill, but, he added, the situation is “still dynamic.” 
 
“I don’t think all is lost with this issue,” Gasaway said. “I don’t believe I represent any people who want children suffering. I think that is the general consensus of the General Assembly. We’re going to try to find a way to help these children.” 
 
Gasaway said he believes part of the problem is the drug companies. 
 
“I believe it’s because the drug companies have so much sway in D.C.,” he said. “It’s a known fact there are three pharmaceutical lobbyists for every congressman. The drug companies are wanting to monitor what’s happening.” 
 
In spite of that, he said, he is “convinced that the Georgia General Assembly wants to take some positive action, and I think we’re going to find a way to do that.” 
 
Gasaway said the two Senate bills introduced by District 5 Sen. Curt Thompson have “muddied the water” for the CDB oil bill. Senate Bill 7 would make “medical marijuana” (not cannabis oil) legal when prescribed by doctors. It would impose no limits on THC, the substance that causes a “high.” 
 
Thompson also pre-filed Senate Resolution 6, which would legalize and tax marijuana for adult recreational use. 
 
District 10 Rep. Terry Rogers, who is personally acquainted with Ava and her family, said he had supported the bill, but there had been “some concerns raised.” 
 
“I was obviously disappointed when they saw the changes needed to be made to the bill, but I think it’s extremely important we get it right from the start,” Rogers said. “I’m looking forward to seeing Rep. Peake’s new bill and discussing it with him, and I’m hopeful that we’ll still be able to do something this session to help alleviate some of the problems and situations that these parents are faced with.” 
 
Regarding Ava, Rogers said, “Ava brightens my day every time I see her. She’s a beautiful child both on the inside and the outside, and I’m looking forward to this legislature doing something to help all the Avas of this state.” 
 
Fowler said she appreciates the legislators’ support. She said it’s not the legislators who need to be educated on the issue, but their constituents. She said people need to understand that CBD oil is a medication safe enough for children; it does not provide a “high,” and it’s not made from the same type of marijuana plant as “smokable” marijuana. 
 
“I need to talk to citizens,” she said. “They need to understand what HB 1 is and call their legislators. The legislators need to know the citizens in their counties support them voting for it.” 
 
Tuesday afternoon, after attending a press conference at the Capitol, Fowler she was at first “angry and upset,” but after her initial reaction, she recognized the immunity supported by Deal as a step in the right direction, and she is grateful. 
 
“But my next step is to keep pushing and keep educating,” she said. “Allen [Peake] is working with the governor, he’s working with other states, to see if there’s a way we can write into this immunity bill to help families safely gain access to CBD oil.” 
 
by KIMBERLY BROWN ~ January 16, 2014 ~ The Northeast Georgian
 
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