POLITICS
03/04/2014 03:45 pm ET Updated Mar 04, 2014

Bills Legalizing Cannabidiol Oil Advance In Georgia, Utah

Boston Globe via Getty Images

Bills to legalize the marijuana extract cannabidiol were passed by the Georgia House of Representatives and the Utah House of Representatives on Monday.

Both bills passed with overwhelming majorities and now head to the state Senates in both legislatures for approval. If Georgia's HB 885 is passed, Georgia would become the first state in the South with a working medical marijuana law.

While cannabidiol comes from the marijuana plant, it's a non-psychoactive compound that is low in THC, meaning it does not produce a "high." But the extract, also known as CBD, may help relieve severe seizure syndromes. Supporting that theory are a few powerful stories of epileptic children who have used the drug for treatment purposes.

Georgia's bill was inspired by a Republican lawmaker's visit in January with a 4-year-old girl named Haleigh Cox, who suffers up to 100 seizures a day and whose parents were contemplating a move to Colorado, where access to the drug is legal. "I just know if Haleigh was my daughter or my grandchild, I would be moving heaven and earth to make sure this was available," the lawmaker, Allen Peake, told HuffPost in January.

In Utah, a crowd of parents of children with epilepsy burst into applause when the bill was passed, according to multiple reports. “This is huge,” Utah resident Stephanie Carr, whose 18-month-old daughter has a severe epilepsy disorder known as Dravet's Syndrome, told Fox 13 Now. “This will add quality years to her life. I’m just so blessed and so grateful that we’ve got it!”

Utah's bill is expected to get a warm reception in the Senate, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. In Georgia, though, the cannabidiol bill faces long odds, Peake and House Speaker David Ralston told Georgia Public Radio. "I hope you can find someone over in the Senate to champion this bill,” Ralston told supporters.

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