Medical Marijuana Laws in Georgia
Mark Wall, RN
Medical Marijuana Laws in Georgia
Medical Marijuana is often a taboo subject in society today because of the stigma associated with marijuana. Some studies have shown that marijuana can be a gateway drug to abusing other addictive substances such as alcohol and other illicit drugs (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018). Other studies have shown that marijuana can be used to treat a variety of medical disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, seizures, cancer, glaucoma, arthritis, etc. (Kabir, 2018). Even though marijuana use can be a polarizing subject, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the recent medical marijuana laws in Georgia, and the implications these laws have on public health and the nursing profession.
House Bill 1 (Hayleigh’s Hope Act), Senate Bill 16, and House Bill 65
House Bill 1 was signed into law on April 16, 2015. This bill allows people with eight specific medical illnesses to possess and use marijuana products prescribed by a licensed physician. The illnesses that are listed in the Hayleigh’s Hope Act are as follows: Cancer, Sickle Cell anemia, Crohn’s disease, seizures, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Mitochondrial disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease (Clark, 2015). Patient’s that qualify under the law can use and possess up to 20 fluid ounces of marijuana oil for the approved illnesses stated previously. Hayleigh’s Hope Act specifies that the marijuana oil must contain less than 5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and an amount of cannabidiol that is at least the same amount of the THC or higher (Clark, 2015). In addition, patients or their caregivers must have registration cards issued by the Department of Health to legally possess the marijuana oil and that their physician must certify that the patient is being treated for one of the medical conditions covered under the law (Clark, 2015).
Senate Bill 16 was passed into law on May 9, 2017. This bill expands on House Bill 1 by adding 6 medical conditions eligible for treatment under the state’s medical marijuana program. The 6 new eligible conditions under the program are as follows: AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, Epidermolysis Bullosa, Peripheral Neuropathy, and Tourette’s syndrome (Baruchman, 2017). House Bill 65 was signed into law in May 2018 which expanded the program again to include PTSD and chronic pain to the list of eligible illnesses and disorders that are covered under House Bill 1 in the registry for medical cannabis use (Dukes, 2018). These bills do now allow the purchase of medical marijuana, but they give the patient a right to possess marijuana oil under state law and purchase them from out of state and bring them into the state at their own risk because it still is a federal crime to possess marijuana and transport across state lines (Clark, 2015).
Implications to Nursing and Public Health
As more states pass medical and recreational marijuana use legislation, the nursing profession will see both negative and positive outcomes from these laws. For example, Washington and Colorado, the first 2 states to make marijuana legal for recreation have seen an increased in emergency room visits related to marijuana use. States that have legalized marijuana use have also seen an increased amount of driving under the influence related to marijuana use. Washington and Colorado both saw an 154% increase in traffic fatalities related to marijuana use between 2006 and 2014. Marijuana legalization has the nursing and medical professionals scrambling to develop new practices for cannabis related medical problems (Torrento, 2017). The marijuana laws in Georgia discussed previously are intended to allow patients with certain conditions to gain access to a product that could potentially mitigate their deleterious symptoms related to their illnesses that cannot be treated effectively through modern medical means (Marijuana Doctors, 2018). This will have positive impacts to patient care in treating patient’s medical problems. It allows doctors to gain access to a new treatment tool that was previously inaccessible by empowering the patient to legally possess a treatment tool. This new law also allows public universities in Georgia to conduct studies on marijuana for the treatment of certain disorders (Marijuana Doctors, 2018). However, it should be pointed out that Georgia’s laws are very restrictive. They do not allow recreational marijuana use, they restrict the THC level, and the state has strict rules on who can have the marijuana extract and on how much a patient can have in his/her possession (Clark, 2015).
Marijuana is a drug and like all drugs it can be used to benefit society or harm society. Studies have shown that marijuana can benefit cancer patients by preventing the spread of cancer cells, help control seizures, alleviate arthritic pain in patients, control tremors due to Parkinson’s disease, help control anxiety, help people that suffer with PTSD, help alleviate pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis, help treat glaucoma, and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease (Kabir, 2018). Studies have shown that marijuana can be detrimental to individuals in society from increased DUI convictions and automobile fatalities to increased incidences of emergency room visits. (Torrento, 2017). I believe that Georgia is on the right track with marijuana for medicinal purposes. The legislation that has passed in Georgia gives a specific patient the right under state law to use and possess a certain amount and type of marijuana for specific medical treatment (Marijuana Doctors, 2018). I support legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in Georgia and would like to see a bill passed that allows Georgians to get medical marijuana extract at various locations run by the Department of Health. I believe that tight state regulation and control to medical marijuana for treatment use outweigh the cons to medical marijuana for treatment use.