Like It or Not: Medical Cannabis Production in Georgia

Opinion piece by Lyle V. Harris

These are my kids. They’re twins so I love them twice as much. 

They’re all grown up now, but I’ll never forget how worried their Mom and I would be whenever they were sick. Like most parents, we’d do everything we could to help them feel better and get well. Usually, they just needed some cough syrup or aspirin from the drugstore. Today, they’re both healthy and strong.

But imagine if getting medicine for your kids meant breaking the law and possibly going to jail?

That’s the reality for parents all across Georgia whose kids are suffering from serious illnesses that are being treated effectively with medical cannabis. 

Medical cannabis, usually in oil form, comes from the marijuana plant. Since medical cannabis has very low amounts of a substance called THC, it doesn’t give patients the feeling of being high and it’s not considered addictive. 

Usually taken orally with a dropper, medical cannabis has been used successfully to treat a wide range of illnesses in children and adults. While it doesn’t work for everyone, there's a growing body of scientific research that confirms that it benefits patients with chronic illnesses that don’t respond well to conventional drugs. 

You may know that medical cannabis is already legal in Georgia. We’re one of 42 states and the District of Columbia that have some type of medical cannabis law on the books.

That's a lot of states!

The Georgia law that passed two years ago is called the “Haleigh’s Hope Act”. It was named after a little girl who was having hundreds of painful seizures every day. Her attacks were so bad, that doctors didn’t think she’d survive. 

Her parents were desperate so they began treating Haleigh with medical cannabis oil. Her seizures have subsided and Haleigh is still with us today.

Georgia’s existing marijuana law was a good first step in helping hundreds of families like Haleigh’s. But there’s still a MAJOR problem, a problem that lawmakers can very easily fix during the legislation session that’s going on right now. 

Under the current law, patients in Georgia who are diagnosed with at least one of eight specific medical conditions can get a prescription from a certified physician.

But here’s the part that’s crazy, and just kind of cruel. Although it’s technically legal, you can still get locked up in our state for medical marijuana if you try to grow it, cultivate it, or sell it.

These senseless restrictions have forced some medical cannabis patients to rely on private, underground networks. Others are smuggling it into Georgia across state lines – which is a violation of federal law and can land them in BIG trouble. 

In extreme cases, patients and their families have packed up and moved to other states with less restrictive marijuana laws where they’re not being treated like criminals. Although her family has since moved back to Georgia, that’s exactly what happened to little Haleigh several years ago before the law was passed. 

In a recent display of courage and common sense, several state lawmakers have filed a resolution calling for a statewide referendum on changing the law to allow in-state cultivation and sale of medical cannabis. If the measure is approved, Georgia voters – that's you and me – could decide on this issue as soon as next year. 

In many ways, Georgia voters have already weighed in on the medical marijuana issue. By overwhelming margins, polls show that Georgians strongly support legalizing the production of marijuana for medicinal purposes. A separate piece of legislation introduced recently would also expand the number of chronic illnesses that could be treated with medical cannabis.

Look, these bills moving through the state legislature have absolutely nothing to do with making it easier for Georgians to get high on recreational drugs. 

They’re about making sure that adults and children with severe illnesses have safe, legal, and convenient access to medicine that can – and should be grown and sold right here in Georgia. 

If you agree, please contact Governor Nathan Deal and let him know you support the adoption of House Resolution 36 to amend the Georgia constitution by putting medical marijuana on the ballot in 2018.

For those families caring for chronically sick children and loved ones, it’s just the right thing to do.

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DISCLAIMER: This segment represents the views of the commentator and not necessarily those of FOX 5 Atlanta.