Moderated by Rick Badie
Pro-cannabis activists wants the 2014 General Assembly to consider marijuana reform legislation that would make possession laws less criminal and allow medicinal use of the herb. Today, an advocate presents that position, while an opponent champions current drug laws.
Treat weed like wine
By James Bell
National polls show 58 percent now support legalizing medicinal marijuana, and 80 percent indicate support for doing so. This shift in attitudes toward cannabis comes after 20 states and the District of Columbia enacted medical marijuana laws, and Colorado and Washington voted to legalize its use.
Will Georgia follow suit and reform its laws? Georgia activists say yes, but it will take considerable work to educate the Legislature and motivate the public to get more involved. One thing is certain: The movement to reform these laws in Georgia is growing. The Legislature will address this issue at some point.
The General Assembly has addressed the medical marijuana issue in the past. In 1980, Georgia was one of the first states to pass a medical marijuana research act. The law allowed the use of marijuana for cancer therapy and glaucoma. But smoking the federal government’s harsh “ditch weed” was intolerable for many, and the pharmaceutical form of THC was more palatable. The program is no longer active. Georgia has lost more than 30 years of medical research; we could have been a pioneer in cannabis therapeutics.
A major factor in the increase in public support for cannabis was the documentary “Weed” by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This ground-breaking exposé opened the eyes and hearts of millions of viewers to the medicine called cannabis.
On the criminal justice front, Georgia has enacted certain legal reforms in an attempt to reduce the number of non-violent offenders in the prison system. It has ignored the issue of marijuana law reform.
Georgia has some of the most draconian marijuana laws in the nation, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison for possession of more than an ounce. With nearly 30,000 arrests each year, the harm done to our citizens by these laws far exceeds any real or perceived harm cause by marijuana.
It’s time Georgia treats marijuana more like wine than plutonium. Not only is marijuana prohibition a civil rights issue, it’s also a money issue. The money we spend on arrest, prosecution and incarceration for a commodity known to be far safer than alcohol and tobacco could be redirected to prevent and enforce real crimes against people.
As an activist, I am encouraged by the support I am seeing from the public. Even legislators are educating themselves about the topic and are seeking alternate policies. We can kick-start the process by having compassion for the seriously ill. Allow them access to a relatively safe medicine that has proven to offer relief from suffering. With certain states engaged in cannabis therapeutics and research, we have just begun to understand what this plant has to offer.
We have drafted legislation and seek support. We encourage the citizens to contact their legislators to begin a dialog on this issue. With marijuana, Georgia should apply its motto: “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.”
James Bell is founder of the Georgia CARE (Campaign for Access, Reform and Education) Project.
Drug laws are clear
By Jerry Luquire
The growth, possession, use or sale of marijuana in the United States is a violation of federal law. There are no exceptions, and I could find no court cases or, as the legals say, “precedent” where any judge has decided this law somehow was not clear or an unusual or imprudent violation of citizens’ rights.
If this were still the America where clear violations of our nation’s laws were adjudicated, the essay could end here. Instead, by some sponsoring open defiance of a law and the refusal of government chiefs to take action, the fortunes that were lost and lives ended to guarantee us a nation which is governed only by laws, not by man, regretfully seems almost a cartoon.
Breaking drug laws is not the same as easing 10 miles over the limit or an 18-year-old buying alcohol. At least violators of these laws, when caught, face a court. The speeder’s defense of being in a hurry or drinker’s explanation that he was really thirsty would not excuse them from facing the law and its judgment.
On any square foot of the United States, involvement in marijuana is a crime, a felony. Within these clearly explained rules, there are no footnotes where enforcement of these laws is denied or exceptions made.
Wait. Isn’t there permission in the law legalizing use of this powerful drug to make the sick feel better? No.
The most logical legal standard to find exceptions of federal laws against trafficking in cannabis is to check its drug counterpart and make a comparison of laws. In 75 years, with Congresses of many thoughts and mores, there is no footnote or annotation, for example, that the drinking of wine by a child for his stomach’s sake is OK. Even the sick must wait until he or she is 21 to discover any medicinal value of alcohol.
As a publisher of books, I have the pleasure of meeting those from many trades and professions. In recent years, I have asked of those whose livelihood is derived from their knowledge of the human body if God had somehow changed his recipe to create us.
After all, we have discovered males and females who say they received the wrong body parts. So could any modern-day fetal development engineered by our Maker bring a propensity to develop an illness only marijuana could aid?
To those who want to break drug laws with unjustified excuses, why not spend that time you are coddling the media by redressing Congress for changes? I suggest you do this soon, as the recent rash of sicknesses that can be abated only by cannabis use may rapidly advance to fatalities, and there will be no one left to light the fire.
Jerry Luquire is president of the Georgia Christian Coalition.