Should Georgia make medical marijuana legal?
That’s an issue currently circulating in the Georgia General Assembly and it appears as if the idea is gathering steam after years of languishing in the shadows.
As a college student in the late 1970s, I did an internship in the Georgia Governor’s office and medical marijuana was an issue in the General Assembly back then, too. Until this year, it never got much attention.
Medical marijuana is said to have curative properties for a variety of conditions, but the one that is getting the most attention today is its use for seizure patients.
This newspaper recently published a news article about a local Commerce boy whose family plans to move to Colorado so he can have access to medical marijuana for his very serious seizure condition. He can’t legally get that drug here in Georgia.
In this debate there is really no argument. Call me biased if you wish, but as the father of an epilepsy patient, I’d feed my son worms if I thought they would control his seizures.
We’ve never tried medical marijuana for my son’s seizures. We have tried over a dozen other “legal” medications. He currently takes six powerful drugs twice a day, drugs that would put most of us out cold on the floor.
But those FDA approved drugs, two brain surgeries and a pacemaker-like implant — all tried over the last 14 years — have failed to completely control his seizures.
He’s 20 years old now and had to quit high school in the 10th grade due to seizures. He isn’t allowed to drive. And he has to carry an emergency injection 24/7 in case he has a bad seizure that won’t stop on its own. We are on a first name basis with many EMS and ER doctors.
If using marijuana in any form would help control my son’s seizures, I’d have a greenhouse full of leafy pot plants growing today. Any parent would do the same thing, the laws be damned.
But the real rub on this issue has more to do with perception than reality. The medical use of marijuana is so intertwined with its use as a recreational drug that public officials get woozy when debating the matter.
Most medical marijuana is given as extracted oil with much of the powerful THC removed. Seizure patients don’t get “high” off of the medical use of marijuana.
Of course, a lot of our medications today come from plants. Yet the recreational use of marijuana has been so widespread that many people have a difficult time believing there could be legitimate medical uses from a pot plant.
Perhaps the most common use for marijuana medically in the past has been to reduce nausea for those undergoing chemotherapy. That was mostly done by smoking the weed in a similar manner to its recreational use.
Others have used the plant to help control chronic pain and to reduce eye pressure in glaucoma patients.
It’s easy to see how the medical use of marijuana could get wrapped up in a debate over its popular recreational use. A lot of groups have been pushing for decades to have the plant and its recreational use decriminalized and legalized across the nation. Colorado and Washington state allow its recreational use, although federal laws still make it illegal.
Undoubtedly, some of those groups wanting to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes see getting it approved for medical use as a way to crack open the door.
That, of course, makes legalizing the medical use issue much more difficult. Legislators are wary of pro-pot groups and don’t want to be seen as somehow cooperating with what they consider a fringe element.
That’s unfortunate. Although the medical use of marijuana is not FDA sanctioned and is mostly experimental, the bureaucratic status of its labeling isn’t very important to the families of those suffering from seizures and other serious medical conditions.
If it works, why not make it available? Don’t tell the parents of kids who suffer that they should just wait and do nothing while politicians dance around the taboo image marijuana has for recreational use.
If that plant, or any part of its chemical composition could help my son to live a more normal life, then the politics doesn’t matter. I’m sure the parents of thousands of other children feel the same way.
And let’s don’t be hypocrites, either. We are a nation that depends on drugs for a wide variety of uses. We have our Xanax for our anxiety, Prozac for our depression, Adderall for our ADHD, and Viagra for Friday nights. Yet we would deny a child access to a drug that might help him live a more normal life?
It’s time to put our preconceived notions aside and do the right thing. Georgia should allow medical marijuana to be used for those who have serious medical conditions that might be alleviated by compounds found in pot plants.
If it helps, I’ll have my son take advantage of it, too.
Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.