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CARLTON FLETCHER: Medical marijuana bill would benefit Georgia

OPINION: Proposed House bill would strictly limit access to medical cannabis oil

Carlton Fletcher

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.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.