February 2, 2014

Medical marijuana: good idea, bad execution

More than 30 years ago, Georgia lawmakers legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes for those with glaucoma and cancer. But the board created to oversee that program has been inactive for some two decades and no patients have taken part in the program for even longer.

What happened?

Simply put, the program was too restrictive, too regulated and too poorly thought out. That is, if its purpose was actually to deliver relief to patients.

The program counted on getting access to medical marijuana from the federal government, which never delivered. The program set up all sorts of hurdles and tests for patients to qualify for treatment, rather than just allowing their physicians to determine whether marijuana might help them and prescribe it if they thought best.

Now, the General Assembly is considering reviving that program and expanding it. A bill by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would add severe seizures to the list of conditions allowed in the program and permit them to be treated with cannabis oil.

The bill suffers from all the problems of Georgia’s existing medical marijuana program, including uncertainty about where the state will get the cannabis oil from.

Peake says it can get it from suppliers in states such as Colorado, which has legalized marijuana for recreational as well as medicinal purposes. But transferring cannabis oil across state lines remains a federal crime. Will suppliers in states where marijuana is legal risk federal prosecution?

Peake’s bill is also overly bureaucratic, allowing the cannabis oil to only be prescribed and distributed at the state’s medical colleges. The vast majority of doctors would remain unable to legally prescribe marijuana.

We expect that if Peake’s bill passes, it will be no more effective at relieving the suffering of the patients it purports to help than the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

Georgia lawmakers may truly want to help those suffering from severe seizures, but that is outweighed by their fear that someone somewhere might smoke a joint.

Certainly, some states have enacted medical marijuana laws so broad that they have effectively legalized all marijuana use. Georgia lawmakers want to avoid that.

But if other states’ medical marijuana laws basically legalized the drug, that’s what the authors of those laws probably intended. If Georgia has thoughtful, intelligent lawmakers, they should be able to craft a law that really can allow all patients who need medical marijuana to obtain it but doesn’t allow too much abuse of that privilege.

Surely, lawmakers can find some middle ground between a medical marijuana program so narrow that it is doomed to failure and one so broad that it invites widespread abuse.

Text Only
  • Dalton council should seek answers

    Judicial elections in this area are usually pretty staid. In fact, they are generally nonexistent, since most judges run unopposed.

    July 21, 2014

  • Letter: Something to think about

    It has been better than four months now since Malaysia Flight 370 went missing. During that time we have heard all kinds of speculation, conjecture and opinions as to what happened to it. The only certainties to emerge are that the Malaysians fumbled the ball early on and there are some understandably distressed loved ones left to deal with their losses.

    July 21, 2014

  • Don’t forget the runoff

    Most folks are either getting ready for or still recovering from their summer vacations. So it’s easy to forget that Tuesday is an election day. A runoff election day to be precise.

    July 20, 2014

  • Be excited about a new grocery store, but stay loyal to the Green Spot

    The Daily Citizen reported on the front page of the July 15 newspaper that Dalton could get a new grocery store.

    July 19, 2014

  • John O. Schwenn: Making college completion easier

    There are, within the state of Georgia, an estimated 1.1 million adults who started a college degree program and never finished.

    July 19, 2014

  • Guest column: Blevins supporter questions Wilbanks

    I support David Blevins in his campaign to be elected Conasauga Circuit Superior Court Judge on Tuesday, July 22. First, please get out and vote. Have a say in your local government.

    July 19, 2014

  • Citizens of the Week: Pleasant Grove Fire Station, Charles Crump

    Imagine this: One normal Thursday, you make preparations to bake a few dozen apple muffins for friends and neighbors, as you have countless times before. You bake the first batch without a hitch. Then, after you’ve placed the second batch in the oven, a loud noise sounds, your smoke alarm starts blaring, and your entire kitchen is full of smoke.

    July 18, 2014

  • A tournament to be proud of

    The scene Sunday afternoon at Lakeshore Park looked similar to one we see each fall on Friday nights around northwest Georgia.

    July 17, 2014

  • Still time to vote early

    Summertime, and the living is hectic.

    July 15, 2014

  • Mark Millican: Down with the berry picking blues

    It was there, and then it wasn’t — and Mr. Gravity took over.

    July 15, 2014