Georgia House passes medical marijuana bill

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ATLANTA —

Anxious parents watched from the Georgia House of Representatives gallery as lawmakers debated, then passed a medical marijuana bill.

The bill passed the House on "Crossover Day," the last possible day in this legislative session for a bill to be approved by either chamber. It now heads to the Georgia Senate.

Channel 2's Lori Geary sat with parent Janea Cox as debate began late Monday afternoon. Just an hour later, House bill 885 passed by a 171-4 majority.

"I think we're all in shock right now. After some of the testimony we were unsure and we're able to know we've made it through another push," Cox told Geary while fighting back tears.

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Cox's daughter, Haleigh, is the namesake for the Haleigh's Hope Act which would allow cannabis to be grown in Georgia under tight restrictions.

Four-year-old Haleigh has spent the last six weeks in the hospital but she made an appearance at the state Capitol Monday, clutching a stuffed bear.

"It's overwhelming. So many people know her here, so many people are pulling for her," Cox said. "It really gives you that hope that people are listening to the human side of the story."

Haleigh and her mother are moving to Colorado next week so she can receive cannabis oil treatment to battle the hundreds of seizures she suffers a day.

"I keep pushing for what I know is right. I know Haleigh needs this medication and I'm going to keep pushing for it no matter what," Cox said.

Cox said the bill is too late for them to stay in Georgia, but they hope they will be able to return to their home state for treatment in the near future.

Republican state Rep. Allen Peake sponsored the bill that revives a long-dormant program allowing academic institutions to distribute medical cannabis to those suffering from medical conditions. The cannabis oil would be administered orally in a liquid, pill or as an injection.

Only a handful of lawmakers voted against the bill. Rep. Sharon Cooper supported it but warned the system may prove unworkable given conflicts with federal law.

Another closely watched bill passed the Senate on Crossover Day.

The Senate voted to approve a bill restricting abortion coverage in plans available through the state health insurance exchange. State senators voted 35-18 to advance the bill, which now heads to the House for consideration.

The federal health care law allows states to draft legislation prohibiting abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an exchange.

Supporters of the Georgia effort say 24 states have done so.

 Democrats opposed the bill, calling it a continuation of a "war on women" and saying it infringes on a woman's right to choose.

Senate Bill 98 also prohibits the state employee health plan from offering abortion coverage except in the case of a medical emergency.