Recently the fight for medical cannabis oil in Georgia took a new twist. The Georgia Sheriff’s Association said they think “the list of illnesses is too long”. They essentially only want to allow young children with epileptic seizures and no one else. They offer no reasons to support their position. It seems to be based on a gut instinct, not on science or any data.
Here is the complete list of illnesses in HB-1: Severe pain or nausea from cancer treatment, Glaucoma, AIDS, ALS, Seizure disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, Chron’s Disease, Mitochondrial disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Muscle spasticity disorder, Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, Autism, Sickle cell anemia, Tourette syndrome, A terminal illness that involves severe pain, nausea or wasting
Let’s put aside the fact that neither politicians nor law enforcement should make any recommendations on the list of illnesses in a health bill since they lack medical degrees. Let’s also ignore quantifiable data that proves cannabis oil has proven efficacious results on all of those conditions listed above. Instead, let’s trust people with a massive conflict of interest and every reason to oppose loosening the laws with no medical degrees to adjust the bill based on a “gut feeling it might be a slippery slope.”
Even if what they are saying is 100% true, (which it is not) would that really be such a bad thing? With the hunt for transportation funding it is hard to ignore the tax refund people in Colorado soon will be getting from their legalization. It is also hard to ignore their drop in crime rates and the fact that they beat Georgia on pretty much every quality of life index under the sun. I am not so sure being like Colorado is such a bad thing nor do most people in Georgia.
Governor Deal joined the Georgia Sheriff’s Associations concerns and issued the following statement this week in what would appear to be a coordinated attack on HB-1.
“We want the cannabis oil to be available for the children. But we do not want it misused. And I think law enforcement and district attorneys that have expressed opinions on this believe that if it’s not drafted very, very tightly and can’t be enforced with certainty, it lends itself to a situation where we cannot control it … I share those concerns. That’s why it is difficult to draft this kind of legislation.”
Allen Peake, the face of of the HB-1 bill, was already widely criticized for his perceived weakness in an earlier closed meeting with Gov. Deal after he gave in to a huge concession. After the meeting, it was announced that Georgia would not allow in-state growing for a year and more studies would be done. This is a questionable demand by Nathan Deal given that medical cannabis has been available in other states for around 20 years.
Ample research is already widely available or simply ask Georgia families who were forced to become medical refugees if it works. No honest research performed in Georgia will contradict that done in other states or countries. It will simply waste time, money, and resources while more sick Georgians suffer and die another year.
There is no valid reason for additional study, but there is a valid reason if your are GW Pharma and waiting on FDA approval for your synthetic medication Epidolex. The FDA already approved the clinical stage trial. Remember that GW Pharma has given political donations to both Nathan Deal and several other Republican opponents of medical cannabis in Georgia.
Medical cannabis could cost GW Pharma and other companies billions in profits as more states move towards legalization and patients are able to buy or grow their own plants for a fraction of the cost of prescription medications while also not suffering from all the side effects found in most medications. The worse possible nightmare pharmaceutical companies have feared for decades is the full legalization of cannabis which would allow patients to grow and make their own medicine. Pharmaceutical companies make far more profits off of treating symptoms than finding cures since people cured aren’t repeat customers.
Pure extracts fresh from the plant is far more effective than medications like Epidolex or Marinol and it is also cheaper without all the harmful side effects. As a plant product, fresher is almost always better which presents a problem without in-state growing. Unless patients plan to leave the state a few times a month to procure the oil there is a greater chance they will not get the same quality as something they could buy locally.
There is also the risk of arrest from transporting it across state lines and the fact that it is illegal to buy the oil in a state unless you are a resident. Nathan Deal made HB-1 so onerous, that by the time Epidolex gets FDA approval he hopes it will be a more attractive option thanks to all the hurdles in obtaining the oil.
Allen Peake already made this bill rather restrictive compared to other states. He placed a cap of 5% on THC, the component that causes the high effect. Studies have shown that for certain illnesses (like severe pain from cancer) a higher THC level of around 10% to 20% is needed and more effective.
For people not long to live on this earth, I am not sure if limiting “high effect” is very humane. Why is heroin AKA morphine effective? It is effective for pain relief because of the high effect not in spite of that effect. Why the double standard with cannabis? Even Allen Peake is guilty of loosely throwing the term “psychoactive” as a weapon in this debate. In reality alcohol, nicotine, and even caffeine are all psychoactive agents. Where is the outcry to ban those psychoactive drugs?
The fact that Nathan Deal and the Georgia Sheriff Association want to weaken and already weak bill even further seems very cruel. I guarantee if any one of these opponents suffered from one of those debilitating illnesses themselves they would change their tune very fast.
The concession to Nathan Deal on agreeing to holding off in-state growing severely limited the ability of this bill to provide relief for patients in Georgia this year. Allen Peak took a lot of flak for that concession. He is a loyal party man so he put on his best smiling face and did not criticize Nathan Deal publicly, but I am guessing he was simmering behind closed doors. How could he not have been? Unlike Nathan Deal, Peake has a personal connection with these families and knows how they are suffering.
Another concession to now strike off illnesses from the list might be his breaking point and the one that leads him to stand up to Nathan Deal. If he chose to do that he would have a lot of support. It is only certain Republican politicians in Atlanta that need to be educated. The people in Georgia strongly support medical cannabis by a large margin.
Are Cops Actually Opposed to Medical Cannabis?
Well that depends on how you define the word “cops”. If you are talking about the street cops and ones that ride around in patrol cars and are supposed to risk their lives every day then you will find a good percentage support HB1 and even full decriminalization. These cops understand better than almost anyone how the failed drug war costs both money and lives. Many are afraid to speak out for fear of being reprimanded by the Chief or Sheriff.
In a 2011 survey cops were asked, “Should pot be legal?” and of the roughly 1,700 police respondents a full 44 percent said either ‘Yes, that’s where we’re headed.’ or ‘Maybe, depending on specifics.’ The other 56 percent came down on the side of either ‘No, legalization is a bad idea.That is a far cry from what the Georgia Sheriff’s Association would have you believe. In fact, that number is not far off from the general public. And this poll was taken in 2011. I would bet the number is even higher now in 2015.
A strong parallel exists with the cops back in the old alcohol prohibition days where many were for ending prohibition because they understood it was like trying to hold back the ocean with a bucket. Then you had the ones who sat in offices with no risk to their own safety or receiving bribes that were opposed to ending prohibition. Who said times have changed?
Deputies in a sheriff’s department or officers in a city police department by and large are the foot soldiers. They do not make the laws, they only follow orders and enforce the law. It is the politicians that make the laws and then the Sheriff and Police Chiefs that decide how vigorously to enforce the law and which laws to enforce.
I decided to take a look at the Georgia Sheriff’s association. From what I could tell on their IRS statement they have two paid staff. James Cody who makes $107,167 and Terry Norris who makes $80,850. The average salary for a police officer or deputy in Georgia is $32,000.
I wonder how the average cop making $32,000 feels about a lobbyist making far larger salaries speaking for them? I am not saying they all oppose or support ending prohibition, but what I am saying is their voices are not as unified as many have been led to believe. 45% of cops favor cannabis legalization from a 2011poll and far higher numbers now.
Terry Norris is the spokesman I have seen on the news making statements expressing his “concern”. The anti-cannabis sentiment among some law enforcement personnel is not surprising. When asked why so many police organizations are lobbying against marijuana law reform, retired Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Stephen Downing said:
“It’s money, In many states, the city government expects police to make seizures, and they expect these seizures to supplement their budgets. The only difference now compared to the times of alcohol prohibition is that, in the times of alcohol prohibition, law enforcement—the police and judges—got their money in brown paper bags. Today, they get their money through legitimate, systematic programs run by the federal government. That’s why they’re using their lobbying organizations to fight every reform.”
Legalizing cannabis would greatly cut into their income, be it from cash seizures, federal grants, etc. It would also take away a common excuse to do a warrantless search. Many cops justify their anti-cannabis stance by falling for the rampant, unfounded anti-cannabis propaganda that continues to plague this nation.
If you want to hear what honest, reasonable cops have to say about the drug war in general, check out: LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition From their website: “LEAP envisions a world in which drug policies work for the benefit of society and keep our communities safer. A system of legalization and regulation will end the violence, better protect human rights, safeguard our children, reduce crime and disease, treat drug abusers as patients, reduce addiction, use tax dollars more efficiently, and restore the public’s respect and trust in law enforcement.”
LEAP’s goals are: (1) To educate the public, the media and policy makers about the failure of current drug policy by presenting a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug use and the elevated crime rates more properly related to drug prohibition than to drug pharmacology and (2) To restore the public’s respect for police, which has been greatly diminished by law enforcements involvement in imposing drug prohibition.”
The old adage that says “follow the money” seems to apply here. But in addition to civil asset forfeitures and grants that bring in millions you cannot ignore other revenue streams like for-profit prisons. You can’t make a profit if the prisons are full or to be precise over capacity. Fans of the show Orange is the New Black actually got a lesson on how for-profit prisons are run. Even though this is a TV drama, it is not too far off base. They are often overcrowded and understaffed. The companies provide scant medical care that is often administered incorrectly, if delivered at all.
The Correction Corporation Of America’s Stewart facility, a private prison in Lumpkin, Georgia, is forcing prisoners to pay five dollars per minute to use the phone, Alternet reports (h/t ThinkProgress). The exorbitant rate would break most people’s budget, but it’s especially costly for inmates that the prison who make just one dollar per day to work at the facility.
Faced with huge budget shortfalls, states are increasingly relying on privatized prisons to house criminals in their state and the for-profit corporations behind those prisons are coming up with various ways to maximize revenue. The money the Stewart prison is collecting from its 2,000 prisoners to use the phone helped the prison net profits of $35 to $50 million a year, ThinkProgress reports. The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — a 500% increase over the past thirty years even as crime rates have gone down.
If you think these corporations that make all the millions in profits won’t pushback against decriminalization of cannabis which would severely hurt their bottom line with fewer non-violent offenders, I have some prime mountain real estate in Valdosta to sell you.
The Georgia Sheriff’s association is also fully aware that decriminalization lowers the actual crime rate by as much as 20%. According to data from the Denver Police Department, violent crime (including homicide, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault) fell by 6.9% in the first quarter of 2014, compared with the same period in 2013. Property crime (including burglary, larceny, auto theft, theft from motor vehicle and arson) dropped by 11.1%. In California the results were even more dramatic.
What happens when crime rates drop? You guessed it, the Sheriff suddenly has a harder time with those big budget requests. So forgive me when I am am little skeptical about the motives behind lobbying groups like the Georgia Sheriff’s Association or others like District Attorney associations or lobbyists affiliated with for-profit prisons. It’s a massive conflict of interest to have the same people that enforce the prohibition also bending over backwards to prevent laws from being passed that would end the prohibition. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain from HB-1.
Will HB-1 be another victim of a good bill so weakened by lobbyist and special interests that is essentially helps no one? Or will people of good moral character be up to the challenge to make sure so many desperate people in Georgia can finally get the much needed relief they have so patiently been waiting for.
This weekend, over 3,000 Americans will die of Cancer. Every day after that, 1,500 more Americans will die of Cancer. Every minute another American dies of Cancer. Every single Cancer patient deserves to have safe, legal, and economical access to Medical Marijuana. Every single one.
No more waiting. Get this done. Lives over Lobbyist.