Pubdate: Tue, 04 Feb 2014
Source: Albany Herald, The (GA)
Copyright: 2014 The Albany Herald Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: Carlton Fletcher


When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight, Roll up a
joint ... or don't. Just follow your arrow wherever it points.

- - Kacey Musgraves

A Republican Macon lawmaker is attempting what many in these parts say
is the unthinkable: Rep. Allen Peake has prepared a bill that would
allow for the legalization of medical marijuana in Georgia.

Opponents have already started lining up their "damn hippies" defense,
and proponents of legalization of pot in general have started waving
their freak flags and saying the bill doesn't go far enough.

Caught in the middle are legislators who recognize the medical
significance of cannabis for patients who suffer epileptic seizures
and for cancer patients seeking relief from unbearable pain, but who
also know that many of their base supporters would never favor
legalization, no matter what good it might do.

At its essence, this is a perception issue.

Never mind that an overwhelming majority of Georgians and Americans
favor legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, and a smaller
majority support legalization for recreational use. And forget that
study after study has shown that pot poses no greater health risk to
regular users than alcohol.

The thought of individuals buying marijuana legally in the heart of
the Bible belt is just too much for some to take.

Which begs the question: Why?

Why do so many Georgians and Americans equate pot, a relatively
harmless drug when used recreationally and a beneficial one when used
medicinally, with opposition to religion? Perhaps such people are
aware of some obscure biblical admonition that condemns pot - Thou
shalt not toketh weed, maybe? - but I've never heard any basis for
such opposition.

It should be pointed out that opponents' visions of shady Georgians
getting fake scripts for medical marijuana and sitting around smoking
up while plotting the downfall of civilization is not what Peake's
bill is about. The very specifically worded law would allow parents of
young epilepsy patients to apply to get a cannabis-derived oil at one
of a few medical centers specifically cleared to dispense the medication.

Noting the success the oil has had in reducing seizures in young
epilepsy patients, Peake stressed that access to the medication would
be "restricted, controlled by doctors and limited in scope." The
representative also stressed emphatically that he opposes the
recreational use of marijuana.

Few are aware that Georgia law currently allows doctors and patients
to get involved in "studies" involving medical marijuana's impact on
glaucoma and cancer treatment. Fewer still are aware that
marijuana-based medicines are available in the state.

The fear of opponents of legalized medical marijuana seems to be that
allowing for any kind of marijuana usage is the first step toward
full-on legalization. That, they point out, is what happened in
Colorado and Washington state. It doesn't seem to impact these
people's thought processes that the reason first medical marijuana and
later pot in general were legalized in Colorado and Washington is that
the majority of people in those states voted to make it legal.

It seems that for a very vocal minority of people in the state and
across the country, the voice of the majority does not count, so long
as they're part of the minority. All that stuff about individual
rights, less intrusion by the federal government into states' affairs
and the will of the people becomes meaningless when they feel their
capacity to impose their will - to force their oftentimes skewed
version of morality - threatened.

These are the same people who are OK with mandatory minimum prison
sentences that have poor people doing hard time for possession of a
small amount of pot while millionaire bankers who threw the country,
indeed the world, into recession by conning financial institutions
into fraudulent toxic purchases of worthless mortgages continue to
live their lives in luxury.

It also is the height of hypocrisy that our government officials are
OK with the sale of alcohol, a contributing factor in thousands upon
thousands of needless deaths in this country each year, yet they
oppose the regulation and taxation of a plant that is certainly no
more dangerous and, more and more studies are showing, actually much
less dangerous.

No, the legalization of medical marijuana would not be the beginning
of the downfall of civilization in Georgia. Quite the opposite, it
would be a first step in nudging the state a step or two closer to the
21st century.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D