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‘Haleigh wouldn’t be here without it’: New medical cannabis law aids Georgia families

MONROE COUNTY, Ga. — Middle Georgia girl Haleigh Cox may not communicate like other girls her age, but her mom Janea knows exactly what she means by every smile and small movement. And those are each little victories.

“She’s learning to sit on her own and becoming just the little girl we dreamed we’d have,” Janea Cox said.

Four years ago, the Cox family was told Haleigh wouldn’t make it much longer. Her severe seizure disorder had doctors prescribing medication so strong that Haleigh would stop breathing.

Janea says cannabis oil was Haleigh’s last hope — and it worked.

“That’s the only thing that’s changed in our life,” said Janea. “And she’s gotten so much better. Seizures are better. She’s gone two, three weeks at a time without a seizure, and we never thought that would ever happen. So it’s been pretty amazing.”

The Cox family has been there since the beginning of medical marijuana legalization in Georgia. The act that was eventually passed into law in 2015 was called the “Haleigh’s Hope Act” in her honor.

But that only allowed for patients with certain conditions to possess medical cannabis. Janea still couldn’t obtain it for Haleigh in Georgia. So for years, the Cox’s broke federal law and bought the medicine in Colorado.

“We’d go about every two to three months,” said Janea. “We’d pick up some medicine, get her on a plane. We tried to stay as legal as possible in both states, just so that if we were arrested we could say we’re really trying to do what you guys want us to do. And I explained that to Governor [Brian] Kemp several times that we shouldn’t have to break federal law to save our kids’ lives. And I think he finally kind of started getting it.”

Now, there’s another hurdle passed in the Peach State: growing.

“I feel like we’ve been taking these little baby steps for the past four years,” said Janea. “We kept adding conditions and we kept doing what we needed to do to help other people, but growing was always in the forefront. We needed to get it done, and I feel like we put the right people in office this time to help us get it done.”

But even though Governor Kemp signed Georgia’s Hope Act in April, the thousands of patients who need medical cannabis in Georgia won’t get it immediately.

Representative Micah Gravley is one of the bill’s sponsors. He says one of the first steps is setting up a commission.

“We’re looking or recommending names now for appointment to this particular commission,” Gravley said. “So that the commission can get together and immediately start drafting and propagating rules and regulations, get applications created, and get those applications out to the public. So businesses, entities and individuals can start applying.”

The law allows for eight total licenses to cultivate and distribute cannabis: six for private commercial entities and two for universities, including one in Middle Georgia.

“We’ve designated two licenses in perpetuity to our two land-grant universities here in the state of Georgia,” Gravley said. “That’s the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University. So they’ll have the opportunity to contract with private entities or corporations or individuals who the feel best would accomplish their end goal in being able to hopefully provide the research. And that could lead also to the production, manufacturing and dispensing of the cannabis oil as well.”

Within 18 months, he hopes to have oil getting to the Georgia patients who need it.

For Janea, it doesn’t quite seem real yet.

“I honestly didn’t think we’d get here as soon as we did,” she said. “I know it’s been five years, but I figured it was going to be further down the line.”

But through the whole fight, she and her husband have had their inspiration right in front of them.

“She’s a tough little girl and she’s just is out to prove everybody wrong,” said Janea. “She amazes us every day, and every day she shows us something new.”



Originally from WGXA