Georgia governor outlines alternative plan for medical marijuana

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[April 11, 2014]  By David Beasley

ATLANTA, Ga. (Reuters) Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is working on a way to legalize medical marijuana for treatment of children with seizure disorders after a bill to do so died in the Georgia legislature last month, he said on Thursday.

Deal said he is discussing with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration how the state can launch legal clinical trials of liquid cannabis for child patients with epilepsy.

One option would be for Georgia Regents University in Augusta to work with a pharmaceutical company that is currently testing a purified form of cannabis, Deal said.

"The product contains no THC, which is the component in marijuana that intoxicates a user," Deal said. "The university would create a well-designed trial for children with epileptic disorders."

A second option would be to use cannabis oil obtained from marijuana grown by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at its farm located at the University of Mississippi, said Deal.

Georgia Regents University supports the clinical trial, its president, Ricardo Azziz, said in a statement.

"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," Azziz said.

The Georgia General Assembly this year seriously considered a medical marijuana bill but could not agree on a final version.

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 22 states, said Allen St. Pierre, executive president of the pro-marijuana group NORML. Last month, the Alabama legislature passed a medical marijuana bill and Governor Robert Bentley has said he will sign it into law.

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In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to allow the use of medical marijuana in a pilot program in up to 20 hospitals.

Florida's legislature is also considering bills to legalize medical marijuana treatment, and a separate constitutional amendment to make its medical use legal has been placed on the November ballot.

(Editing by David Adams and Eric Walsh)

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