People in Georgia can now reap the benefits of medical marijuana as Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill that legalizes its use within the state.

With this, Georgia became the 36th state to recognize the medicinal effects of marijuana extracts to treat illnesses. Other states that have legalized medical marijuana include Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C.

The new Georgia law states that cannabis oil can be used to treat people who suffer from epilepsy and other seizure disorders. It can also be used for cancer, multiple sclerosis, mitochondrial disease, sickle cell anemia, Crohn's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

An estimated 500,000 patients in the state will benefit from the legalization of medical marijuana.

The government, however, will only allow possession of up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil with minimum amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive substance that induces a high in users.

"For the families enduring separation and patients suffering pain, the wait is finally over," Deal said. "Now, Georgia children and their families may return home, while continuing to receive much-needed care. Patients such as Haleigh Cox, for whom this bill is named, and others suffering from debilitating conditions can now receive the treatment they need, in the place where they belong—Georgia."

Deal added that he will make sure the state agencies tasked with handling the administration of medical marijuana will follow the guidelines properly. The governor also said he will seek to improve the law in the General Assembly scheduled for next year.

Despite the decision of several states to legalize the use of medical marijuana for specific illnesses, federal law still states that possession of the substance is illegal. The U.S. Justice Department, however, stated that it will not hinder efforts by the states to legalize marijuana as long as it is well regulated.

For its part, Atlanta's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said that it will follow the guidelines set by the new law, but it reaffirmed that the federal law still considers marijuana illegal.

According to Deal, Georgia's medical marijuana program will be tightly regulated. For patients to receive authorization cards from the state, they will have to provide proper documentation from physicians.

To eliminate the risk of marijuana being abused because of the new law, suggestions were raised for the state to legalize and regulate cultivation of cannabis oil within Georgia.

Photo: Brett Levin | Flickr

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