January 21, 2014

Medical marijuana deserves consideration

The Daily Citizen

— Twenty states now allow the medical use of marijuana. Could Georgia join their numbers?

A poll conducted last week by InsiderAdvantage for Morris News and Atlanta’s WAGA-TV found that 51 percent of Georgians support limited use of medical marijuana. Fifty-three percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans favor medical marijuana, while 48 percent of self-described independents support it.

Some Republican lawmakers are starting to express interest in the idea. State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, has called for hearings on legalizing medical marijuana, and reports out of Atlanta have indicated the Senate leadership may allow those hearings. State House Majority Leader David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said earlier this month that, despite some concerns, he’s willing to consider the idea.

“I want to look at the science. I want to look at the medicine,” he said.

And Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer has said he’s open to discussing legalizing medical marijuana, within limits.

“It is unfortunate that some states have clouded the issue by using a medical justification to effectively legalize recreational use,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

With elections coming up this year, most candidates for the General Assembly will likely be quizzed on their views on this topic.

We shouldn’t be surprised that Republicans in Georgia are opening up to the idea of medical marijuana. Conservative principles should lead to the conclusion that politicians, law enforcement and prosecutors should not interfere with the doctor-patient relationship. If a physician believes marijuana can help reduce a patient’s suffering or help in the healing process, he or she should be able to prescribe it and the patient should be able to use the prescribed medical marijuana without fear of legal sanction.

But conservative principles also lead to the conclusion that local communities should be able to guard their common values. If Georgia lawmakers really consider legalizing medical marijuana, they should look to the state’s alcoholic beverage laws as a guide. To the extent practical, cities and counties should be able to decide whether they want to allow the cultivation of marijuana or the establishment of dispensaries within their jurisdictions.