Recently, there have been significant changes in attitudes toward marijuana nationwide. Since 1996, 23 states across the country and the District of Columbia have legalized comprehensive access to medical marijuana. Two states have decriminalized the drug entirely.
However, here in the South, we have largely resisted any mention legalizing marijuana out of fears that it could lead to widespread drug abuse and other social ills. There are also cultural and political opposition to easing up on this drug. However, this week I learned that Governor Deal is advocating for clinical trials for a marijuana-derived drug that many say could help treat severe seizure disorders among children.
This is a courageous move by our governor. It is particularly courageous for a Republican to take this course of action in an election-year in a conservative part of the country that is just beginning to warm up to medical marijuana in narrow circumstances.
Surprisingly, this year, six Southern states have adopted laws establishing some limited access to marijuana products that have minimal or no tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes users feel high.
A similar effort in Georgia failed on the last day of the 2014 legislative session, which prompted Deal to take action to coordinate clinical trial programs in the state.
Deal said, “We all have to be sensitive to the children who have these seizures, and that is the focal point for all this discussion. I want it to be helpful, not harmful. And I want it to be legal, and that’s why we are taking the steps to make sure we achieve all of those goals.”
Also this week, another conservative state, Utah, issued its first registration card under its limited medical marijuana program geared toward those with severe epilepsy. Under Utah’s program, the marijuana extract known as cannabidiol can only be obtained from other states and with a neurologist’s consent. The extract can be administered orally. In Georgia, the key to widespread acceptance has been the advocacy of parents who say their children suffering from severe seizure disorders could benefit from the use of the cannabidiol.
Deal said the science is not settled, which is why the clinical trials are so crucial. Under Georgia’s plan, the state through Georgia Regents University in Augusta will be partnering with London-based GW Pharmaceuticals for an expanded clinical trial.
The company also has a research partnership with New York and is conducting trials in several states. Deal said the Georgia clinical trial would hopefully be up and running by the end of the year or the first part of 2015. A separate clinical trial, which would be state-run, would require FDA approval, and it’s not yet known how long that will take.
Over the past 12 years, I would say that about 80% of my criminal cases involved drugs (including alcohol) in some way. Almost all violent crimes are fueled by some type drug use by the defendant. (usually alcohol, cocaine, or methamphetamine).
However, when I look back and count the number of violent offenses committed when a person is using marijuana, the number comes to zero.
I consider myself to lean heavily to the right on most political issues. I am also not a marijuana advocate. I do not use marijuana and I don’t like the idea of my sons using marijuana.
However, if I was Valerie Weaver, I might feel differently. She brought her 6-year-old son, Preston, who has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, to the governor’s event at Children’s Hospital of Georgia on the campus of Georgia Regents University. Weaver said she was hopeful the trials could help her son, who suffers from 60 to 80 seizures a day.
I think that you may be surprised to see the social acceptance for marijuana use under a doctor’s care in our Southern States to rise significantly in the next few years because of the courage of conservatives like Governor Nathan Deal.