AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday two plans to move the state toward allowing the safe use of cannabis oil for children with epileptic disorders.
Deal said he has consulted with the federal Food and Drug Administration on how the state can start legal clinical trials with cannabis oil products at Georgia Regents University.
The first option involves pairing GRU with a private pharmaceutical company that has developed a purified liquid cannabinoid currently in the FDA testing phase. The second option involves GRU using cannabidiol oil obtained from cannabis product grown by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at its farm located at the University of Mississippi.
"We do not see these options as mutually exclusive, and we're looking to move forward on both options at this time," Deal said.
But the second option may take more time because it would require GRU to work through an approval process with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the FDA, the governor said.
A bill that would have allowed for the limited use of medical marijuana failed to pass the Georgia Legislature last month.
"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," Deal 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 had passed, we still would need to take these steps, so we haven't lost any time," Deal said. "As we progress, we'll determine if the General Assembly needs to take additional action next year."
Georgia Regents University expressed its excitement about 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 Georgia Regents University 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."