By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
In recent years, no drug has been as heavily debated and discussed as marijuana. In 2013, voters in Colorado and Washington approved resolutions to legalize recreational use of marijuana. In January, recreational sales began in Colorado, and estimated tax revenue from sales has already been revised upwards.
Recreational use aside, the wider availability of marijuana benefits those who rely on the plant for medical needs. Marijuana is an effective pain reliever and safe alternative to opioids (like morphine and oxycodone) when appropriate. A growing body of evidence supporting marijuana’s legitimate medical use and benefits to patients has inspired public figures from lawmakers to well-known figures in medical journalism to advocate for medical marijuana.
It may surprise readers to learn that Georgia may become the first state in the South to legalize medical marijuana. In February, the Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved a bill to permit medical marijuana to be grown and used in our state.
The scope of the bill is limited. The marijuana could be only be used to treat patients with cancer, glaucoma and seizure disorders. In March, the bill passed in the House, 171-4. Don’t anticipate availability just yet; the bill has to pass in the State Senate first and be signed into law by Governor Deal. If the bill gets a signature, implementation will take significant time as the state determines how to comply with federal law and regulation.
The legislation waiting on a vote in the Georgia Senate is called Haleigh’s Hope Act. Haleigh Cox is a four-year-old Georgia girl with epilepsy. She, and children like her, endure multiple seizures every day. Haleigh sometimes endures 100 seizures in a day. Although Haleigh receives excellent care, her seizures continue.
Children with Haleigh’s condition have found relief with a non-psychoactive marijuana derivative called cannabidiol (CBD). As federal law now stands, Colorado may produce CBD but cannot send the oil across state lines to patients who may benefit from its use. Haleigh’s mother, Janéa Cox, announced via the family Facebook page, titled Hope for Haleigh, that they are moving to Colorado this month in order to access the new treatment. CBD is not a guaranteed cure-all, but the family hopes Haleigh will see a significant reduction in seizures.
Pro-marijuana organizations like Georgia CARE (Campaign for Access, Reform, and Education) and the Georgia chapters of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) have campaigned for years to liberalize marijuana laws and bring medical marijuana to Georgia. They will continue to do so even if the latest legislation passes. Critics of the bill say that it is too restrictive and that Georgia lawmakers need more time to study federal law so the state doesn’t run afoul of the national government.
As marijuana laws are liberalized across the country, we as a populace and a state should examine new evidence, and closely watch as Colorado and Washington implement their new recreational marijuana laws. As public opinion continues to shift towards liberalization, it’s unlikely they’ll be the last states to implement such laws.