Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed a bill into law that allows Georgia farmers to grow hemp. The crop is the source of products ranging from rope to soap to CBD oil.
Kemp had already signed a separate bill that allows medical marijuana, a stronger derivative, to be grown with some limitations in the state. With these developments, medical marijuana and hemp will soon crop up on Georgia farms. At the same time, CBD oil is a suddenly ubiquitous trend, showing up even on Atlanta menus.
Allen Peake is a former Georgia State Representative who pioneered much of the legislation regarding hemp and CBD. He joined On Second Thought from GPB's studio in Macon to talk about the development of the legal and medical uses of marijuana derivatives in the state. Lia Picard, a journalist who recently wrote about the growing social trends of CBD oil for Atlanta Magazine, also joined the conversation.
On the difference between marijuana, THC, and CBD
Picard: CBD and THC are both derivatives of marijuana and hemp. Neither are marijuana. Marijuana is its own plant and then hemp as its own plant. And when we talk about CBD we're talking about the derivative from the hemp plant.
On the current status of hemp and marijuana in Georgia law
Peake: We have to keep in mind there are two separate laws that just got passed this session. One, a hemp bill which allowed Georgia farmers to be able to grow hemp and get a license to grow here for basically more industrial purposes. And then there was HB 324 ... which is the growing of marijuana for the purpose of producing CBD oil with elevated levels of CBD, which is the therapeutic part of the plant, and minimal amounts of THC, which is a psychoactive component the plant, but also provides some effect for people with seizures and cancer and other multiple diagnosis. It's a huge step forward. It joins ... other states across the country that now have access to the medical cannabis oil and something we've been pushing for for five years now.
On educating Georgia lawmakers about this topic
Peake: How we were able to convince legislators eventually was the sharing of stories by different families. We had many families who had moved to Colorado and moved to other states and had experience with medical cannabis oil and saw tremendous difference in quality of life for their children or for their loved ones and plus the fact that now it's been four years since Haleigh's Hope Act passed that allowed the legal possession of medical cannabis, although you still couldn't get it here … Once we passed Haleigh's Hope and gave legal possession of medical cannabis oil [we found] there wasn't a huge public health risk. There wasn’t a big public safety hazard. You know, this was an oil that was making a difference in the quality of life... All this evidence that we're able to gather kind of helped us, as well as the fact that we had a new governor, Brian Kemp, you know had expressed to us privately and publicly that he was open minded to address this access issue which was always an issue for Governor Deal.
On the timeline of Georgia medical cannabis oil access
Peake: What we are looking for from the bill that was passed [is] to produce medical cannabis oil which has up to 5% THC in it and can be used under current Georgia law for 16 different medical conditions. ...First of all, the governor has to appoint the commission, which will grant the licenses which will be six of them. They will be granted by the commission to be able to grow, process and distribute the medical cannabis oil. That's the first step they're going to have to happen then. It's probably going to take 12 to 18 months before we actually get medical cannabis oil in retail stores or dispensaries or at pharmacies to be allowed to be able to dispatch to Georgia citizens.
On CBD uses in foodie culture
Picard: So we're seeing it a lot in cocktails around town. It's fairly expensive so it hasn't made the grand explosion that it has in other cities. But at Big Sky they're incorporating it into an absinthe cocktail where they put the droplets of the oil on top, so kind of playing with the flavors there with the licorice flavor from the absinthe and the grassy flavor from the CBD oil. There's also Sunshine Alchemy, which is a food truck, and they make juices and smoothies where they also offer CBD boosts. And the owner, Jasmine, told me how when she goes to College Square for people's lunch breaks people will go up and get the CBD on their lunch break and feel more relaxed going back into work.
On the effect of CBD when used in food
Picard: The effect doesn't make you high. THC will make you high but CBD is non psychoactive. And so it's different for everyone but you will likely feel more relaxed, maybe a little more zenned out.
On the legality of restaurants selling products with CBD
Peake: It's technically illegal. I mean hemp has now been exempt under the farm bill so as long as it's hemp oil, which means it has zero or very minimal trace amounts of THC, it's labeled. But, if you ask the DEA or the FDA they will tell you that any part of the marijuana plant is still illegal to be able to be sold. And so it's a gray area but obviously the federal government is taking a back seat enforcement.
On consumer risk
Peake: You better make darn sure you're buying it from a reputable manufacturer that can provide you a lab test that tells you exactly what's in that product.
Picard: The retailer I spoke to, they definitely have disclaimers on their website that say that the CBT could trigger a positive drug test because there is such a trace amount of THC in the oil. I think if you use just the CBD isolate, which is just the CBD not including trace amounts of THC, then you've probably got a better shot of not testing positive for the drug. There is definitely a risk and I'm not sure if the restaurants make that disclaimer but it's something people should know if they are out and about enjoying it.
On social applications of CBD
Peake: The big issue I always dealt with ... was all this is doing is leading us toward a slippery slope of recreational use of marijuana and I've been very clear that I do not support the recreational use of marijuana. The fact that now that hemp oil or CBD oil is now a potential food additive, you know that scares me a little bit because you don't know exactly what you're getting. Again, I would caution folks to make sure if you're older and you're going to put some in your food... make sure you know what you're getting and make sure you know what's in that product. And if [people] need some help they can find me on Facebook. I can walk them through the process you know reputable manufacturers to be able to order from as well too. But I'd be very careful.
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