Should Georgia legalize medicinal marijuana?

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 The program is no longer active.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.

29 comments Add your comment

Toby

December 22nd, 2013
12:41 pm

Spain’s cannabis models is best: let people grow a limited numbers of plants for themselves, & have private clubs where adults can buy it. Don’t put drugs on every corner, like we do with alcohol & tobacco… alcohol & cigarettes are too easily available, they’re everywhere & it isn’t healthy for people… cannabis is safer than either of those two drugs, but none of them should be everywhere. Let people grow cannabis for personal use, & let us buy from taxed & regulated private clubs. It could even help people cut back on hard-drug use; it’s too useful a drug to outlaw.

tony

December 21st, 2013
5:47 pm

simply do a google search about “mandatory sentencing” and see what comes up. cops don’t want to waste their time with marj. smokers. the biggest danger is that legislators will make laws for mandatory probation and “drug rehab” and set up their own programs that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Rep. Bruce in Ga. is doing just this, and he’s not alone.

[...] Journal Constitution) to write an essay on why cannabis should be legal. And here it is…. (AJC Page Go Here) (PDF FILES at bottom of page) Published 12/12/13 [...]

Tom

December 20th, 2013
11:25 am

The human body was made with canabanoid receptors which have been proven to help with several medical conditions. The herb has been used in this manor for over 2,000 years. Only our own misunderstandings and fears have resulted in this natural product being classified as a Class 1 narcotic which has made criminals of it’s citizenry for minor useage and enriched the criminal element for it’s production and distribution. Would we be better off as a nation by understanding the true facts of this issue?

Buckhead2Seattle

December 19th, 2013
9:38 pm

As a Georgian now living in Seattle, I would like to add my “non smokers” perspective. Cannabis is legal in WA state. It will soon be legal to purchase cannabis at WA Liquor control Board regulated private stores.

Marijuana has been quasi legal here for several years due to residents “piggy backing” their orders with medical marijuana prescriptions holders. And due to State and local police making pot arrests an extremely low priority.

You would think that everyone, everywhere in WA and CO would be lighting up now that it’s legal but that has not been my experience. I would equate pot legalization to alcohol. The people who drink at 19 when it was illegal, are the same ones who drink at 21. They just have more options.

jake w.

December 19th, 2013
7:43 pm

Know one thing for sure, the plants been growin in Georgia,since afore my grandparents,used it.and during the war,the navy sure did appreciate,american rope.Ya don’t have to smoke it,to benefit,from it……so,are we modern yet?

roughrider

December 19th, 2013
7:32 pm

Mr. Luquire: I suggest that you read Gen. Chapt. 1 vs 11-12 to see what our Maker has to say about this.

Paul Westmoreland

December 19th, 2013
6:47 pm

sounds like mator might be a child molester that wants it made legal. He did not give any good reasons to make it legal.

Sex, Drugs, Rock-n-Roll and Stadiums

December 19th, 2013
5:56 pm

We need legal weed so we can tax it and fund all these stadiums.