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Friday February 12th, 2016 7:22AM

Medical marijuana bill fails in final hours of session

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) A bill allowing sick patients to legally take a marijuana derivative to ease their symptoms failed Thursday in the final hours of Georgia's legislative session, stalling amid a dispute between House and Senate lawmakers.

By law, the General Assembly meets just 40 working days annually. Any bills not approved by midnight Thursday do not become law. That fate awaited the so-called medical marijuana initiative as legislators made last-day maneuvers in an election-year session that was otherwise generally tame.

Proponents pushed a program that would allow people suffering from the side effects of cancer treatment, glaucoma and some seizure disorders to take oil derived from cannabis in the hope it might help their conditions.

Few lawmakers opposed the idea on principle, but senators used it as a last-minute bargaining chip. Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, attached the legislation to a separate proposal that would require insurance companies to cover behavioral therapy for Georgia children 6 and under who have been diagnosed with autism.

Republican House leaders balked at the insurance requirement because they are concerned it will raise costs for employers and workers. Unterman said she expected the differences to be worked out in a compromise committee of senators and representatives. It never happened.

Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, chided the Senate for not ``bringing relief to hundreds of Georgia families.''
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