Just weeks after legislation that would have allowed the limited use of medical marijuana for seizure patients languished in the Georgia General Assembly, Gov. Nathan Deal is mapping out a path towards its legal use by those in need.
The governor is plotting out a method to pave the way for the "safe and legal use of cannabis oil by Georgia children suffering from epileptic disorders," the governor's office said on Thursday in a news release.
Deal said he's consulted with the Food and Drug Administration on how the state could begin legal clinical trials with cannabis oil products at Georgia Regents University Augusta.
The governor said the state so far has identified two paths to pursue. One would include the university partnering with a private pharmaceutical company that's developed a purified liquid cannabinoid currently in the testing phase with the FDA. Deal noted this route would the state's "most promising solution."
The product, he added, contains no THC, the ingredient in marijuana that "intoxicates a user." Georgia Regents would develop what Deal termed a "designed" trial for children with epileptic disorders.
To serve as many children as possible, Deal said the state could pursue a statewide program that would allow Georgia Regents University to team up with other research institutions across the state.
Georgia has been in talks with the private pharmaceutical company and Deal said they are "willing to continue those initial talks."
Another path would be to implement a second clinical trial at Georgia Regents that would utilize cannabidiol oil obtained from a cannabis product grown by the National Institute on Drug Abuse on its farm located at the University of Mississippi. This would take more time, Deal said, as it would require Georgia Regents to work through the approval process from the national institute and the FDA.
The governor said he is looking to move forward on both options at the same time, as they are not mutually exclusive.
“The General Assembly this year gave serious consideration to legislation that would pave the way for patients in need of cannabis to receive it safely and legally," he said. "An issue that could have triggered controversy instead yielded teamwork and a commitment to see this through, as legislators – and I as well – learned the stories of these brave families who are desperately seeking relief for their children’s debilitating conditions. The legislation earned significant levels of support in both houses and in both parties but didn’t make into any bills that reached my desk."
Even if the legislation would have landed on his desk, the governor said the state most likely needed to move in this direction.
Georgia Regents University said it's also excited about possibly starting the clinical trials.
“As the state’s academic health center encompassing a 154-bed children’s hospital, we have a responsibility to address the needs of families whose children are suffering,” said President Ricardo Azziz. “We are appreciative of Gov. Nathan Deal for this vote of confidence and look forward to working with the state to establish clinical trials to research the benefits of treating epilepsy and other neurological conditions with cannabidiol oil."