How We Began
Georgia’s Hope began with parents of children with seizure disorders. Some were babies. Some were school-aged children. Some were children that are now adults themselves. While each child was unique, they all had one thing in common – suffering from seizures and trying numerous pharmaceutical medications with varying levels of success. For most seizure patients, none of these medications are providing any relief. Even if the medications help to reduce the number of severity of the seizures, the side effects are terrible and some of these meds are very dangerous when used long-term.
This isn’t just about children. This isn’t just about stopping seizures. There are so many Georgia citizens of all ages that are suffering needlessly every day when there is a treatment that has such amazing potential to provide relief. Georgia needs to allow all of its citizens the ability to have the best quality of life possible.
Several years ago these families started hearing parents in other states sharing about how medical cannabis was providing relief to their children with seizures. Then in 2013 the concept of using CBD oil as a treatment for seizures became more widely known when CNN aired a documentary called “Weed” by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. As our frustration with the lack of access to this treatment in Georgia grew, we decided it was time to start pushing for change in Georgia so that we could have access to this medicine. A group of parents started working together in late 2013 with plans to start reaching out to our state legislators and to educate the public. One of these parents was Janea Cox, mom to 4-year old Haleigh. When Janea contacted her state representative to talk to him about why Haleigh needs medical cannabis as a treatment option, he actually went to the hospital to meet with them in person. State Representative Allen Peake was so touched by Haleigh that he decided he needed to do something. He began working with several families and some of his colleagues in the House and just a few short weeks later, HB885, also known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act”, was introduced into the Georgia House of Representatives.
HB885 began as a bill to decriminalize medical cannabis and allow Georgia universities to do research on the benefits to patients. Throughout the legislative session, the bill took many forms as it maneuvered through the political process – limits on THC, different growing provisions, etc. The final version of the bill would have simply provided decriminalization for a high-CBD, low-THC form of cannabis. Even though that potential law would have not provided a source for the medicine, the bill would have been a huge acknowledgement that Georgia is willing to work towards providing a solution. Unfortunately, this final version of the bill got caught up in political games as the Senate used its popularity to try to push through one of their own bills which was lacking support in the House, resulting in both bills dying as the legislative clock ran out. Several of our families were in the Senate chamber at midnight on the final night of session. We watched as the legislators were throwing paper in the air and celebrating all the great work they had done during the 2014 session while we were left heartbroken that they couldn’t put aside their differences and allow a final vote to help our children, some of whom did not make it the 2015 session. The total votes on HB885 (and its remnants) were 393-6 across both chambers, so we knew we could use that popularity to pass a bill that works for everyone in 2015.
During the next legislative session in 2015, we continued to work towards getting a workable bill passed and joined forces with patients representing many other conditions. HB 1 was passed and signed into law on April 16, 2015 and allows possession for patients with eight different medical conditions.