I just read an article on Bloomberg called The ‘Marijuana Middle’ is the New Drug Policy Majority. The article speaks of the changing public opinion on marijuana. Even conservative Republicans who have long been the ones opposed to any form of legalization regardless if it was for medicinal or recreational use are beginning to change their tune.

Third Way’s national poll fielded by Anzalone Liszt Grove in October 2014 found the country equally divided on legalizing recreational marijuana for use by adults, with 50% supporting legalization and 47% opposed to it. There is no such split for medical marijuana, with 78% in favor of allowing individuals to use marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor recommends it (18% oppose).

“The 50-47 split in favor of legal recreational marijuana is in sync with the 51-47 support level Gallup found this year. When the data was broken down by subgroup, Third Way found that millennials, non-whites, and independents all strongly favored legalization. More than 30 percent of Republicans favored it. And everyone favored medical marijuana. The issue was so promising that Third Way was able to identify a “marijuana middle,” open to some relaxation of the law, if it were explained to them smartly enough.”

That report is not surprising. I wrote a rather long and detailed article recently chronicling the history of marijuana in the country and why legalization is taking so long here in the deep South and Georgia. Although Democrats in Georgia have been demanding medicinal use of marijuana for over a decade, it took a member of the GOP to actually have a chance to get the ball rolling. That is because they control  all branches of the Government in Georgia and nothing gets done without Republican support. Allen Peake, a Republican House member from Macon, GA, decided to take on that role and lead the charge towards a slightly more liberal policy in the peach state.

Peake seems confident his CBD (cannabidiol) oil bill will pass in early 2015 and I am sure he is correct since it passed in 2014 as well with an overwhelming majority of bipartisan support. It failed to be enacted due to some brinkmanship and tacking on another bill less popular and then running out of time when they tried to divorce that provision and time ran out on the legislative session.

This bill has become known as Haleigh’s bill which is named for Haleigh Cox. Haleigh is a young girl from middle Georgia who has has uncontrolled epilepsy.  The mother took Haleigh to Colorado and marijuana has given here the first seizure free days of her young life.

“Haleigh has about 70 plus seizures a day. She’s unable to sit unassisted. She’s unable to hold her head up and a lot of that is because of the seizure medications shutting down her brain so much.” That comment was made by Janet Cox, Haleigh’s mother while she was under traditional prescriptions in Georgia. After the mother took Haleigh to Colorado there was a drastic reduction in these seizures and she has even had days where she had no seizures at all.

The problem with the Georgia bill is that it is extremely limited and still seems to want to treat THC, (the component of marijuana responsible for the “high”), as plutonium. “I know it freaks everybody out, but we need THC,” Janea Cox said. Only when doctors added a little nightly THC to Haleigh’s CBD regimen did she experience her first seizure-free day in years.”

It seems some Republicans in Georgia are perfectly fine with pumping young children with psychoactive drugs like benzodiazepines which includes Valium and Xanax because they come in pill form from a lab but when it comes from a plant it suddenly becomes evil or criminal.

Common Side Effects From Prescription Medications

Each year, about 4.5 million Americans visit their doctor’s office or the emergency room because of adverse prescription drug side effects. A startling 2 million other patients who are already hospitalized suffer the ill effects of prescription medications annually, and this when they should be under the watchful eye of medical professionals. If you have a TV chances are you have been bombarded with pharmaceutical commercials touting their miracle cures for all manner of illnesses. They typically have smiling and active people with cheerful music as they list the multitude of possible side effects. The impetus for this very article in fact was a commercial I just watched for Humira. In an extremely pleasant and calm voice the announcer casually listed that the following possible side effects. This is a rather long list but I felt I needed to list them all but feel free to scroll down to the end.

Some people using Humira have developed a rare fast-growing type of lymphoma (cancer). This condition affects the liver, spleen, and bone marrow, and it can be fatal. Humira can also lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Serious and sometimes fatal infections may occur during treatment with Humira.

Call your doctor at once if you have symptoms such as fever, night sweats, weight loss, feeling full after eating only a small amount, pain in your upper stomach, easy bruising or bleeding, dark urine, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Humira can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Your blood may need to be tested often. Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding injury. Serious and sometimes fatal infections may occur during treatment with Humira. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

More common

  • Abdominal or stomach fullness
  • body aches or pain
  • cough or hoarseness
  • ear congestion
  • gas with abdominal or stomach pain
  • lightheadedness
  • loss of voice
  • lower back or side pain
  • muscle aches and pains
  • nasal congestion
  • pain or tenderness around the eyes or cheekbones
  • rapid and sometimes shallow breathing
  • shivering
  • sunken eyes
  • thirst
  • trouble sleeping
  • warmth on the skin
  • wrinkled skin

Less common

  • A sore on the skin of the breast that does not heal
  • abdominal or stomach pain
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • agitation
  • arm, back, or jaw pain
  • back pain
  • black, tarry stools
  • bleeding from the gums or nose
  • blindness
  • bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet
  • blood in the stool or change in bowel habits
  • bloody or cloudy urine
  • blurred vision
  • broken bones
  • change in size, shape, or color of an existing mole
  • change in skin color
  • chest pain
  • chest tightness or heaviness
  • chills
  • clear or bloody discharge from the nipple
  • cold hands and feet
  • confusion
  • constipation
  • cough
  • coughing or spitting up blood
  • decreased urination
  • decreased vision
  • depression
  • difficult or frequent urination
  • difficulty with breathing
  • difficulty, burning, or painful urination
  • dimpling of the breast skin
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • eye pain
  • fainting
  • fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
  • fever
  • forgetfulness
  • frequent urge to urinate
  • general feeling of illness
  • hair loss
  • hallucinations
  • headache
  • increased thirst
  • inverted nipple
  • irregular breathing
  • irregular pulse
  • irritability
  • itching
  • light colored stools
  • loss of appetite
  • lump in the breast or under your arm
  • lump or swelling in the abdomen or stomach
  • mole that leaks fluid or bleeds
  • muscle cramps or spasms
  • nausea
  • new mole
  • night sweats
  • no blood pressure or pulse
  • noisy breathing
  • numbness or tingling in your arms, legs, or face
  • pain, redness, or swelling in the arms or legs without any injury present
  • pale skin
  • persistent non-healing sore on your skin
  • pink growth
  • puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • raised, firm, or bright red patch
  • rash
  • redness or swelling of the breast
  • seizures
  • sharp back pain just below your ribs
  • shiny bump on your skin
  • skin rash
  • slurred speech or problems with swallowing
  • sneezing
  • sore throat
  • sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or mouth
  • spitting up blood
  • stiff neck
  • stopping of the heart
  • sudden high fever or low grade fever for months
  • sweating
  • swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
  • swollen glands
  • swollen neck veins
  • tightness in the chest
  • tiredness
  • trouble breathing with activity
  • trouble thinking
  • unconsciousness
  • unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • unpleasant breath odor
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • unusual weight gain or loss
  • visual disturbances
  • vomiting
  • vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
  • yellow skin or eyes

Incidence not known

  • Blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
  • diarrhea
  • joint or muscle pain
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • red skin lesions, often with a purple center
  • red, irritated eyes
  • red, scaling, or crusted skin
  • unusual bleeding or bruising

Some of the side effects that can occur with adalimumab may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects. If any of the following side effects continue, are bothersome or if you have any questions about them, check with your health care professional:

More common

  • Bladder pain
  • bleeding
  • burning
  • coldness
  • discoloration of the skin

Humira is not an anomaly. Many other perfectly legal prescription medications have just as many side effects and warnings that can cause illnesses far worse than the symptom they are treating and even death. The pharmaceutical industry makes sky-high profits that allow them to move quickly from one faulty drug to the next. From 2004 to 2008, Pfizer, one major pharmaceutical company, took in $245 billion. During that same time period, another company, Eli Lilly, made $36 billion from just one of its drugs (Zyprexa). Since 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an average of 24 drugs a year, including many that pose health risks and serious long-term side effects.

The reckless behavior of the drug companies shows no signs of changing. Negative clinical trials are never reported or overlooked, and the FDA buys in. Doctors write millions of prescriptions that may be damaging the health of innocent patients.

When you look at the short and long term effects of alcohol which is also legal these include:


  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Coma
  • Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)

Long-term effects of alcohol

Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health problems, including:

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crash, falls, burns, drowning
  • Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence
  • Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
  • Increased family problems, broken relationships
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual problems
  • Permanent damage to the brain
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer of the mouth and throat

Side Effects of Marijuana

The list is surprisingly short.

Heart disease: Marijuana might cause rapid heartbeat and short-term high blood pressure.

A weakened immune system: Cannabinoids in marijuana can weaken the immune system, which might make it more difficult for the body to fight infections.

Lung diseases: Long-term use of marijuana can make lung problems worse. Regular, long-term marijuana use has been associated with several cases of an unusual type of emphysema, a lung disease.

Seizure disorders: Marijuana might make seizure disorders worse in some people; in other people it might help to control seizures.

Surgery: Marijuana affects the central nervous system. It might slow the central nervous system too much when combined with anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery. Stop using marijuana at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


Final Thoughts

If you made it this far after scrolling though those  incredibly long lists of side effects I thank you for your diligence. I am not trying to argue that marijuana is a miracle drug or is perfectly safe. But I am arguing is that when compared to many if not most legal prescription medications available it is far safer in terms of side effects and also seems far more efficacious for certain uses. It is also far cheaper since patients can grow their own plants. Effects on the lungs can be avoided by consuming it in food or drink.

Haleigh’s bill in Georgia is a step in the right direction but make no mistake this bill will still leave many desperately ill people out in the cold. This oil is extremely expensive, the list of hurdles needed by sick people to get a prescription are long and tedious, and this particular oil will do nothing for many people with cancer, HIV, pain management, and many other illnesses. It is going to cost around $60 million to $70 million in investment to build a safe, secure, adequate supply chain, all the way down to unmarked SUVs with armed guards to transport the liquid. Patients will spend around $200 to $500 per month, if they can afford it, or at cost for needy families. Insurance doesn’t cover it. This is why I consider this a baby step but hardly the best bill in the country due to so many many restrictions and limitations. Colorado currently has the best bill in the country and everyone else is trying to catch up including the federal government.

It is truly unfortunate why so many here in Georgia view a mildly psychoactive agent found in Cannabis as “bad”, but far stronger ones with many more side effects in legal medications as “good”. THC is not plutonium, nor heroine, nor cocaine nor even Humira or Alcohol. We have thousands of years of evidence that says it is not harmful and hundreds of scientific studies as well.

Conservatives by their very definition are desperately afraid of change. Perhaps they need baby steps like this bill to test the water even as other states are able to move far faster towards sensible legislation. Allen Peake is a conservative, but he has also read and educated himself quite a bit about cannabis this past year and I have seen his position soften. I would even bet he would likely retract some of his harsher comments prior to learning more data on the subject. He still has a ways to go, but I hope these polls and data will strengthen his resolve and stop being so fearful of the increasing minority of people who oppose more sensible and comprehensive legislation.

I am concerned however by a quote Allen Peake gave to reporters on 12/3/14 “I will fight with as much energy and passion and conviction to make sure we don’t have recreational use of marijuana in our state as I’m fighting for medical cannabis oil for our kids,” Peake told reporters. That is a pretty hardline and irrational stance not in keeping with some of his other comments. I had hoped he had softened his stance so I hope this was simply a quote to appease a certain segment of people that are more apt to believe a propaganda film like Reefer Madness made 90 years ago than scientific data.

Peake’s bill is a step in the right direction, but it is far from perfect and we should demand it be expanded to treat all illnesses and not just epileptic seizures and a few others. As even Republican polls shift, it is not a matter of “if” but “when”will full legalization come to even the deeply conservative south. Hopefully this article will serve as handy reference and reminder for people of the side effects of what is legally prescribed and pushed by doctors.

Curt Thomson, a Senate Democrat from Norcross has sponsored the bill that Georgia needs known as SR 7 which would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana of up to two ounces for specific debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Chrone’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and the chronic or debilitating condition that cause Cachexia (wasting syndrome), severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, and seizures/muscle spasms from epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. SB 7 also includes a number of common-sense limitations and guardrails for dispensing the drug. Marijuana, like any other prescription drug, would be regulated. This would be a far better and more comprehensive bill that would help many more people than the one proposed by Allen Peake.

Conservatives often use the fear of a slippery slope to scare people into fearing change when it comes to marriage equality, equal rights, equal pay, and medical marijuana to name but a few. There is no such thing as a “slippery slope”; there is no involuntary process that makes laws become other laws. The law isn’t an organism that spontaneously evolves. There is an incremental shift in legislation which comes about as a result in changing views and opinions. There are absolutely zero ways to prevent people from changing their minds, except to keep this substance illegal. The usage of “slippery slope” is just a euphemism for the free will of citizens to change their minds and apply pressure for different policies. As polls shift so will the laws as they should.

It is time the silliness, greed of pharmaceutical lobbyists, and misinformation about a plant comes to an end. Seriously ill people should not be subject to arrest and criminal penalties for using medical marijuana. If marijuana can provide relief to those suffering from terrible illnesses like cancer and HIV/AIDS, it is unconscionable to criminalize them for using it.



By Alan Wood

Musings of an unabashed and unapologetic liberal deep in the heart of a Red State. Crusader against obscurantism. Optimistic curmudgeon, snark jockey, lovably opinionated purveyor of wisdom and truth. Multi-lingual world traveler and part-time irreverent philosopher who dabbles in writing, political analysis, and social commentary. Attempting to provide some sanity and clarity to complex issues with a dash of sardonic wit and humor. Thanks for visiting!

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