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Activists to Push Legislature for Medical Marijuana in Georgia

(APN) ATLANTA -- A coalition of organizations that deal with marijuana policy reform have come together to push the Legislature to address the issue of medical marijuana in the upcoming 2013 Legislative Session.

The new coalition, the Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform & Education Project (Georgia CARE Project), held a press conference at the State Capitol on Monday, December 17, 2012.

According to a press release obtained by Atlanta Progressive News, the Georgia CARE Project is a project of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance (GTA).

James Bell, 53, both of the GTA and the Project, tells APN he had been involved in the marijuana legalization movement since 1986 as then-Director of the Georgia Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).  Bell says he is turning to the issue after turning his focus to property tax issues for the last ten years.

“What really sparked it off was when Gov. Deal and the Legislature enacted a study committee on criminal justice and reform, and their goal was to look at how can we reduce the number of nonviolent offenders in the Georgia prison system,” Bell said.

As previously reported by APN, the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians was established shortly after Gov. Deal came into office.  

After a series of public hearings that included no speakers from groups critical of the prison system or of drug policy in Georgia, the group issued a list of recommendations in December 2011 that did not include marijuana law reform, as APN noted at the time.

The Legislature enacted many of the recommendations of the Special Council during the 2012 Legislative Session.

Last week, the Special Council issued its 2012 report, dealing specifically with issues of juvenile justice.

“If they can decriminalize crimes such as theft, burglary, and forgery--they did enact legislation to drop the penalties--then certainly they can look at marijuana laws and lower the penalties for that,” Bell said.

“Decriminalize it, medicalize it, I’m open to almost any form of reform,” Bell said.

Bell said he wants the Legislature in 2013 to create a special committee to study the issues of marijuana law reform, to report back for action during the Legislative Session in 2014.

“A person who smokes marijuana does not commit a crime against another person, it’s a victimless crime.  It’s a crime against the government,” Bell said.

In May 2012, APN reported that Sharon Ravert of Peachtree NORML announced having spoken with certain Legislators, who she said would be prepared to sponsor the legislation.

Dean Sines told APN that the Legislators included four Republicans, one Independent, and one Democrat, declining to name them at this point.

In addition, as part of APN’s 2012 elections coverage, APN asked numerous candidates for State House of Representatives whether they were in support of medical marijuana in the State of Georgia, several of whom went on to be elected or reelected.

State Reps. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta), and Rep.-Elect “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) each indicated their support for medical marijuana, while State Rep. Simone Bell (D-Atlanta) said she would have to see the specific legislation before offering support, and State Rep. Sheila Jones (D-Atlanta) declined her support.

Activists who attended the press conference last week include Esmee Baincroft, Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Georgia State University; Bell; Adrian Bernell, of Caravan for Peace and Justice with Dignity; Paul Cornwell, National Coordinator of Coalition Against Marijuana Prohibition (CAMP); Ebony Love of NORML’s Women Alliance; Sharon Ravert and Dean Sines of Peachtree NORML; and Ron Williams of GTA.

Marijuana reform, is “not necessarily a progressive issue,” Bell added.  “It's also a conservative and constitutional issue.”

Meanwhile, the Georgia Composite Medical Board (GCMB) is apparently still continuing to refuse to implement the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program, which was established by the Georgia Legislature in 1980 to study the therapeutic efficacy of marijuana (OCGA 43-34-120 et seq).

While the GCMB issued a call on or around April 2011, with the apparent intent of appointing members to the Patient Qualification Review Board--a Board established under Georgia law in 1980 that has never operated--the GCMB has taken no further action to appoint members to the PQRB.

The Rt. Reverend Gregory Karl Davis of the Universal Orthodox Church told APN that he is in an open records dispute with the GCMB regarding meeting minutes that he says are relevant to the Board’s failure to implement Georgia law.

APN receives numerous inquiries from Georgians interested in the PQRB who read about it in APN, demonstrating a need for a medical marijuana program in Georgia.  APN typically forwards the inquiries to activists.

In addition, Cornwell is currently in a dispute with the City of Atlanta regarding his ability to sponsor a Great Atlanta Pot Festival at Freedom Park.  

According to a copy of an email written by Adrienne Wright, Special Events Manager for the City of Atlanta, to Cornwell, on December 18, 2012, assembly is not allowed in Freedom Park because it is a “passive park.”  Cornwell is considering legal action.

Eighteen US states have medical marijuana laws and marijuana is now completely legal under state laws in Colorado and Washington.  Numerous states are now considering further reforms since the 2012 election results in Colorado and Washington.

In addition, in October 2012 the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia heard arguments in a case challenging the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance by the US Drug Enforcement Agency.  Currently, as a Schedule 1 drug, marijuana is in the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, and is considered by the DEA to be more dangerous than methamphetamine and cocaine.

The case is Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration.


Comments (11)

Said this on 12-27-2012 At 10:46 am

It'll be very impressive if Georgia can manage to, for once, get out ahead of the other Southeastern states on this issue. In all honesty, the state can use the revenue. We burn money in the prison industry jailing non-violent offenders and neglect an untapped tax resource.

All the national polling I've read about in 2012 puts support of full legalization in the majority. Quinipac polled 52%, PPP polled 58%, and Rasmussen (a conservative poll) surveyed 56% in support of full regulation & taxation, like alcohol. The same Rasmussen poll reported that 77% of the nation, at the very least, supports medical cannabis.

The Arkansas ballot initiative for medical cannabis was only narrowly defeated by 2 points, but the initiative got more votes than Obama; clearly a bipartisan issue with bipartisan support right there at the ballot box. We can do better than Arkansas.

The lawsuit to reschedule cannabis in Nixon's 1970 Controlled Substances Act is probably the most critical thing, nationally, that needs deciding before other states, like Georgia, will confidently move forward with cannabis/hemp reform. The lawsuit, itself, was filed because the DEA stalled the most recent petition to reschedule cannabis for nine years before ultimately rejecting it. Past lawsuits have been dismissed because plaintiffs lacked the appropriate legal standing to sue, but not this time around: the plaintiffs are medical cannabis patients who are impacted, directly, by the Schedule 1 classification. One of the plaintiffs is a permanently disabled veteran who is denied any sort of pain management through the VA. The three federal judges on the panel requested additional info on the plaintiffs and are still in deliberation.

If the lawsuit is successful, and the DEA is forced to reschedule cannabis to Schedule 3 (where the synthetic cousins of cannabis, Marinol & Sativex, are classified), Georgia can easily move forward on reform without anyone at the state-level pitching a fit about being in conflict with federal law. If the federal govt reschedules, the Supremacy Clause as well as Full Protection Under the Law can/would give anyone with a case to make a medical necessity defense: patients, doctors, and the people who cultivate & distribute cannabis.

More importantly, medical research could *actually* progress in the United States. As it stands, the NIDA is the only entity a researcher can request legal cannabis from, which is technically against the law. Laws about the production of Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 substances for the sake of research forbid monopolies and encourage market competition to avoid artificially inflating costs. The NIDA is not *supposed* to be the only cannabis entity, but the DEA will not license any others to legally cultivate/distribute.

The reason the DEA will only allow the NIDA to cultivate/distribute is that the NIDA does not approve of any cannabis research unless the research is, by design, intended to show that cannabis is dangerous. The system is rigged, deliberately, for this reason. The DEA would lose half their budget if cannabis were legalized, and allowing research into the safety and medical efficacy of cannabis (without the NIDA blocking for them) would be the beginning of the end for cannabis prohibition and the bloated DEA budget.

Last figure I saw, the United States has wasted $1.3 trillion on the failed drug war, but those DEA agents would rather bust passive "pot heads" instead of real criminals who deal in poison and might shoot back. They make a lot of money through property seizures.

Those days are numbered, though. A64 passed so easily in CO because, at the heart of the campaign, was the empirically verifiable and undisputed truth: no one has ever overdosed from cannabis because it is impossible. The LD50 (the amount of a substance that achieves a toxic/lethal dose to half of a sample population) for cannabis is astronomical. No one OD's from cannabis.

Zero recorded cannabis deaths, while FDA-approved drugs take 20,000 lives per year, alcohol takes 25,000 lives, and tobacco is responsible for over 400k deaths each year. Cannabis, zero.

Given, taking in the combusted carbon particles from a burning plant into your lungs is never a good idea: it will increase your risk of respiratory infections, like bronchitis and emphysema. That's just common sense. Using cannabis as a medicine doesn't require it be burnt and inhaled. Vaporization therapy and edibles (cookies, brownies, etc.) are the healthiest alternatives to smoking.

Interestingly, however, the cannabis-cancer link was explored and there was a *negative* correlation. In a 2005 study at UCLA by Dr Donald Tashkin, it was found that cannabis smokers have fewer respiratory cancers than tobacco smokers, and shockingly, cannabis smokers have fewer cancers than members of the population who smoke nothing at all.

There is mounting scientific research concerning the cancer-fighting properties of cannabis via activation of a part of our immune systems called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS seems to be our bodies' natural way of combating unregulated cellular growths, aka, cancerous tumors.

Via the ECS, cannabis is turning out to be a weapon against cancer in its own right (beyond treating chemo side-effects and appetite stimulation). There are antimetastatic effects, meaning tumors are prevented from spreading. There are antiangiogenic effects, meaning tumors are prevented from forming new blood vessels to support their growth. And there are apoptotic effects, meaning cancerous cells are encouraged to self-destruct. All without harming healthy tissues.

Furthermore, as to the medical efficacy of cannabis, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services filed patent #6630507 in 2003 with the USPTO: Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants, indicating that cannabis could be used as an effective therapy in the treatment/prevention of some of the worst neurodegenerative diseases we have, mentioning Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease by name. A paper being published this year of a longitudinal brain imaging study of adolescent substance abuse shows that alcohol consumption among adolescents damages white matter in the brain, while cannabis use does not.

The original assertion that cannabis use damages your brain was based upon the now-infamous 1974 Heath/Tulane study, in which monkeys were strapped into respiration masks that inundated the poor creatures with cannabis smoke (no oxygen). Neurons begin to die after being deprived of oxygen for three minutes. The monkeys were asphyxiated; the cannabis smoke incidental.

There is a very long list of conditions that cannabis can treat, though I'm not extraordinarily familiar with *all* the research. To my knowledge, cannabis can at the very least alleviate the symptoms of conditions like glaucoma, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, and IBS disorders like Crohn's.

Cannabis also has a lower potential for abuse than caffeine, according to substance abuse and addiction experts (not to say the potential for abuse is non-existant).

Luckily, there has also been movement to study how society is being impacted by new medical cannabis laws. According to the research, states with compassionate use legislation see a 9% drop in DUI's and DUI-fatalities. Youth crime rates fall, as do rates of substance abuse.

More interestingly, states with medical cannabis see a 9% drop in suicides for men 30-39 and an 11% drop in suicide rates for men ages 20-29. This is especially relevant for Georgia, as everyone here knows someone who was in Iraq and/or Afghanistan who is suffering from PTSD. Veterans peitition for medical cannabis every year to no avail. Meanwhile, the current suicide to combat-death ratio is 25:1, highest it's been since Vietnam.

For every soldier who dies overseas, 25 come home and take their own lives. If medical cannabis can keep just another 10% of our troops alive and relieve their PTSD, we should do it. There shouldn't be any debate on that.

Georgia can do this, but only if our legislators in the Golden Dome have the courage to do it. Frankly, if you have a loved one who was deployed overseas, if you have a loved one with cancer or alzheimer's, you should support cannabis reform in Georgia. Democrat or Republican, it shouldn't make a difference.

Said this on 12-27-2012 At 02:40 pm

Georgia is ready

Said this on 12-29-2012 At 06:40 pm

I am tired of my tax dollars going to a failed drug war. Paying for non violent offenders for their jail time. 

It is easier for a kid in school to buy black market marijuana from 'who knows what?' drug cartel than to buy the legal regulated drug "alcohol". (which BTW is the true 'gateway' drug). 

Taxation, Regulation and Education does work!


Said this on 1-5-2013 At 08:29 am

I'll be helping out in any way I can.


The rest of the nation is waking up and realizing the waste and failure it is to try to keep marijuana illegal. I hope Georgia can be the first southern state in the country to realize this as well. I think they can be.

Richard F. Elfving
Said this on 1-5-2013 At 05:50 pm

"Yet somehow we persist in punising the pot smokers, adding them to the heap of imprisoned Americans.  Our nation now leads every other country on the planet in one thing:  more prisoners.  One percent of American adults are inn jail.  Both per capita and in absolute terms, we put more of our own nation in prisons than any other.  In 2009, half of all federal prisoners in the United States were serving sentences for drug offensses.  U.S. spending on the drug war tops $100 billion annually.  Each prisoner costs $45,000 per year.  That is very expensive public housing."  Pot Book, a Complete Guide to Cannabis.

In Portugal drug offenders are not put in prison but if they are abusers, they are treated medically and psycbologically.  The expensive drug should be eliminated and we should use Portugal's model for non violent offenders.  They are not harming anyone but themselves.  

Here is what the first three Presidents had to say about marijuana.  

"Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.  The greatest service which can be rendered any country is too add a useful plant to its culture.

                                            Thomas Jefferson

Make the most you can of the INdian hemp seed and sow it everywhere.

                                            George Washington

We shall, by and by want a world of hemp more for our own consumption.      

                                    John Adams 

Said this on 1-10-2013 At 07:49 pm

I live in the state of Georgia and have suffered with GAD( Generalized Anxiety Disorder) I am currently taking medications like prozac zoloft (SSRIS) and now Klonopin (Benzodiazepine) which is in the same class as xanax, the pill offers some relief but with the awful side effects I experience I am not enjoying life. When I Did use cannabis it totally relieved my symptoms. But so many conservative type people demonize marijuana and It gives me so much anger I just want to live a happy normal life without all these presciption pills. Being a 17 with anxiety is awful only if we had medicinal cannabis. 

Said this on 1-28-2013 At 01:57 pm

Support Tennessee legalization and text this interdiction officer why you believe Marijuana should be legal 865-254-8999

Said this on 4-1-2013 At 09:04 am

I have had 6 operations on my spine,2 on my skull,and 4 other operations.The amount of pain I am in,I suffer like a trapped animal.I have never smoked marijuana but I would like to be given the choice to see if even it can relieve some of the pain,and allow me a decent nights sleep.I am only 44,my wife and I sleep in seperate beds because I keep her awake all night complaining how much pain I am in.I would like to see if marijuana can work on some of the pain,because god knows no amount of pills or different ones work.Can we please just listen to the people

Mr. Bogart
Said this on 6-3-2013 At 07:02 am

The reason why we can't smoke gods plant is because of the Shaffer Report, during Nixon's presidency and from that report the test monkeys did die within 1 mo. but not from smoking weed, they died from suffication from the gas masks they had on.

This issue has been one of the most biggest lies our government has been involved in and this must end and decriminalize and legalize marijuanna.

I suffer from a schizophrenia disorder and I have been on serveral pharmaceutical drugs off and on over the years and I had a stroke from one of them back in 2005. Plus I use weed for pain and I have never had a side effect as I have with prescription drugs period!

in addition hemp does not even get anyone high and that too should be legalized once again and it is the strongest fiber known to man. I am sick of out government lying to the American people, this is why I will vote for any laws that come up for vote to end this crap.

Said this on 12-26-2013 At 12:04 pm

Florida is on the move to get the issue on the ballot next year with the thanks to Lawyer group "Morgan and Morgan"!  PLEASE Don't Let GEORGIA be the last state to decrim marijuana or pass medical marijuana.

Said this on 1-8-2014 At 03:09 am

My generation of twenty-something year olds need new direction & guidance. We, as a failed youths coming from broken families, need to focus our attention in a movement so peaceful we have to listen to the elders & whisper words of wisdom with them.

It's that poetry the Bee Gees *& the Beatles sing about. Obviously it's 43 years later and only two states have legalized it. We need to wake up now, and have change.


I am going to be that face, that girl,that boy; that voice.

I am the change I want to see in this world. Georiga here I come, you better be ready for it. The force is strong with me. Let's go, 2014. Georgia lets NOT dissapoint.


Hi, hello.

how high are you?

bye now

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