In April 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed House Bill 324, which legalized the growing, manufacturing, and dispensing of low-THC marijuana oil for specific medical purposes.
This bill was a follow-up to Haleigh’s Hope Act, a law that made possession of low-THC medical marijuana oil legal in 2015. Although possession of the oil has been legal for years, Georgia patients have not had a safe, legal way to obtain the oil until now.
While some Georgia residents are celebrating the legalization of low-THC marijuana oil, others might be uncertain about what, exactly, it means. This article provides an overview.
What is Marijuana Oil?
Marijuana oil, commonly called “THC oil” by the cannabis industry, is an oil extracted from marijuana plants using a solvent or CO2. THC oil is generally ingested orally, inhaled using a vaporizer, or applied topically to the skin. (Vaping THC products will remain illegal in Georgia even with this new law, however.)
Marijuana contains over 100 cannabinoids, the ingredients in cannabis that act on the human endocannabinoid system.
Little is known about most of these cannabinoids, but tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, are of particular interest because of their potential therapeutic benefits. THC is psychoactive, but CBD is not. Different cannabinoids often have different effects on people.
What’s the Difference Between Marijuana Oil and CBD Oil?
Marijuana oil, aka THC oil, and CBD oil are similar, but not identical.
The primary difference is that THC oil often produces a high after being ingested, while CBD oil does not. THC oil can contain CBD, but CBD oil cannot legally contain a significant amount of THC.
Both oils are derived from types of cannabis plants.
THC oil is always derived from marijuana, while CBD oil is often derived from hemp.
Legally, the U.S. defines hemp plants as cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC. Hemp and CBD oil became legal with the 2018 Farm Bill after years of being illegal.
Marijuana is still technically illegal at the federal level and classified as a Schedule 1 drug, despite it being legal in many states. Researchers continue to study the scientific differences between hemp and marijuana.
What’s the Future of Marijuana in Georgia?
Some people have speculated that legalizing a medical form of marijuana could pave the way for legalizing recreational marijuana. The trend of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes then later for recreational purposes has occurred in other states, such as California, Colorado, and Illinois.
State Senator Curt Thompson introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Georgia in 2018, but it did not pass. There are no current bills pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in Georgia.
3 FDA Approved Medications Derived From Cannabinoids
Epidiolex, or cannabidiol: Becoming increasingly popular, CBD was approved by the FDA in 2018. It is primarily used to treat seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome —two types of epilepsy. Additionally, it may be used to treat pain, anxiety, and insomnia and may improve cognition.
Dronabinol: Dronabinol is used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients. It is also used to treat loss of appetite in AIDS patients, therefore promoting weight gain. The FDA approved the liquid form, Syndros, in 2016.
Nabilone: Like dronabinol, nabilone is used to treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients. It is used after other medications and treatments are tried without success.
What Are the Medical Benefits of Marijuana Oil?
The FDA does not currently approve marijuana or THC to treat health problems. They have approved a CBD-based medication and two synthetic cannabinoid medications, however.
Although the FDA doesn’t identify marijuana as a treatment, the drug is legal in 33 states because of its potential health benefits. Researchers have found:
• Marijuana eases eye pressure and can be useful in treating glaucoma.
• Marijuana use could reduce opioid use because of its pain-relieving properties.
• The combination of THC and CBD increases the anticancer effects of radiation.
• The combination of THC and CBD may reduce muscle spasticity in people with Multiple Sclerosis.
• Cannabis can increase both sleepiness and wakefulness depending on the amount of THC and CBD in it.
How Does Marijuana Oil Legalization in Georgia Work?
It will likely be over a year before medical low-THC marijuana oil is being sold in Georgia.
The state government still needs to create medical marijuana regulations and license companies to grow marijuana and manufacture the low-THC oil. Only oils that contain 5% or less of THC will be allowed. For reference, the average potency of illicit marijuana was 12% THC in 2012.
Because part of this system was put in place in 2015, there are already 9,500 patients registered to legally possess low-THC oil. Approved patients will be allowed to possess up to 20 ounces of low-THC oil at a time. If anyone is caught with more than that, they will face steep consequences as outlined in the bill.
To legally buy the low-THC oil, a person will need to:
• Be a Georgia resident for at least one year
• Have one of the illnesses listed in House Bill 324
• Obtain a Low THC Oil Registry Card from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Written by: Jay Summer