- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Public health officials reported nearly 200 patients have now qualified for Georgia’s new medical marijuana registry, with an uptick in the number of doctors now approved to recommend cannabis oil as a treatment.

The updates given Wednesday to the state Commission on Medical Cannabis come as patients, families and doctors continue to grapple with issues about the oil and how it works, including how to dose it or how to buy or obtain it.

That includes concerns by some physicians that the oil is, in effect, experimental and not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Others are worried about liability should they register with the state to confirm patients are eligible to use medical marijuana in Georgia.

The state Department of Public Health has already partnered with the Georgia Composite Medical Board to develop the process for physicians who may be approached by patients seeking the oil for treatment. Public health officials have so far approved 166 doctors for its new registry, which went live in June.

Advocates are pushing the commission to recommend expanding the law, including developing guidelines related to cultivation and production in Georgia. Law enforcement officials are still skeptical about that, but manufacturers and growers who testified Wednesday said their priority in cultivating plants for the oil include safety, security measures and testing that, among the top manufacturers, is often done by independent UL-listed laboratories.

Other concerns remain, however, including funding. Banking institutions remain wary of an industry that relies on a plant - marijuana - that continues to be classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I drug, the most dangerous class of drugs with a high potential for abuse and addiction, and no accepted medical uses.

In fact, the sale of any form of marijuana remains a violation of state and federal law. Yet, 23 states, plus the District of Columbia and Guam, offer some form of legalized use of marijuana for medical purposes. And Georgia this year created a way to protect some people from criminal prosecution for having a limited form of the oil in their possession.

Diseases or disorders covered by Georgia’s law include cancer; seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma-related head injuries; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease); multiple sclerosis; Parkinson’s disease; sickle cell disease; Crohn’s disease; and mitochondrial disease.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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