Cannabis Controversy Comes to ATL

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Our great home state of Georgia could possibly be next on the list of states to legalize the use of medical marijuana. Georgia legislation is currently deliberating over the issue after a new bill that would legalize medical marijuana was introduced in the state House last Tuesday.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines marijuana as “a greenish-gray mixture of the dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of Cannabis sativa—the hemp plant.” Commonly referred to as pot, grass, reefer, weed, herb, Mary Jane, or MJ. At the federal level, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, making distribution of marijuana a federal offense. However, marijuana has been the center of attention shining in a completely different light – as being a medical remedy for critical illnesses.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “a total of 20 states and the District of Columbia allow for public medical marijuana programs (NCSL does not count Maryland, because its program is limited to research only.)” The current interest in medical marijuana sprouts from the successful outcomes reported by individuals suffering from AIDS, Crohn’s Disease (an inflammatory bowel disease) and movement disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome. Studies have shown that medical marijuana minimizes the “wasting syndrome” associated with AIDS, alleviates the severe pain that patients experience with Crohn’s, and quells the involuntary movements associated with Tourette’s. Most recently, medical marijuana has been used successfully to control severe seizures in children and adults that are not controlled by other legal medications. These are just a few areas that marijuana has been acknowledged to have great therapeutic potential.

In 1997, Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), instructed the National Academy of Science to conduct a comprehensive study of pot’s medical worth. The results concluded that marijuana and its ingredients had shown potential against a variety of conditions, but not to the extent that some advocates had hoped. The decision to legalize marijuana was left up to individual states. Georgia is currently considering legalizing it.

How likely is it that Georgia’s legislators will approve medical marijuana? Despite being backed by medical professionals and journals like The New England Journal of Medicine, legalization remains an up-hill battle in the Georgia legislature. The debate should include discussion on potential positive economic impacts for Georgia. Licensing fees and taxes could generate considerable income, not to mention possible job opportunities if pharmaceutical companies open labs in Georgia.

There is much to consider in legalizing marijuana. Hence, legislators will continue to debate in an unhurried manner, exploring the ramifications of medical marijuana. And, though some are skeptical, the benefits of medical marijuana can be great.

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