Access to medical marijuana is increasing in Georgia as other states move toward recreational legalization

Voters in Maryland and Missouri recently chosen Legalize recreational marijuana, previously legal in 19 other states and the District of Columbia. Legalization proposals were not passed in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota after the November 8 elections.

In Colorado, where there was marijuana legal since 2012 voters chosen Decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms for adults over the age of 21 for supervised use in government-regulated “healing centers.”

This follows Decision by US President Joe Biden on October 6th pardon all previous federal offenses of possession of marijuana. The Biden administration has also pushed to reevaluate the drug’s federal Schedule I classification, meaning it has no medical utility and high potential for abuse.

If these states choose to legalize marijuana, Georgia is left with more restrictive measures, although Georgia has recently taken steps to increase access to medical marijuana.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission granted two medical licenses to Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia Inc. on September 21, allowing both companies grow and sell marijuana oil, which must contain less than 5% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition, state law requires that both companies begin production within a year.

Medical marijuana has recently been made more accessible in Georgia. Courtesy of Flickr

The new legalization has made most doctors feel like they can breathe a sigh of relief when patients can access safe medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries, they say Assistant Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine Ali Zarrabi, a palliative care practitioner at the Emory Supportive Care Clinic.

“I am relieved that our patients now have a legitimate source from which to legally obtain cannabis products,” Zarrabi said.

On April 15, 2015, Georgia passed the Haleigh’s Hope Act. decriminalize medical use of marijuana. Under this law, physicians—including those who work for Emory Healthcare—can certify patients with Lou Gehrig’s disease, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, sickle cell disease and end-stage cancer that they are consuming small amounts of possess THC oil.

“In accordance with [f]However, in accordance with common law, Emory Healthcare providers do not prescribe or administer low-THC oil to patients,” Emory Healthcare wrote in an email sent to the wheel by the associate director of university communications, Rachel Smith.

After the decriminalization of medical marijuana in 2015, there were no dispensaries in Georgia, so patients couldn’t legally buy it in Georgia, Zarrabi said.

Before that legalization, Zarrabi said, patients could only get medical marijuana from friends in other states and from people who brought it to Georgia from abroad.

He added that there is now a new level of security for patients to purchase lab-tested marijuana from Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia Inc. This will allow doctors to link marijuana that patients buy to a greenhouse, where they can determine exactly what goes into making the medicinal strain. However, doctors still cannot administer THC directly to patients.

“Our vendors may ask if patients are taking low-THC oil to ensure it doesn’t adversely interact with other medications,” Emory Healthcare wrote in an email to the wheel. “None of this activity is from the recent award.” affected by production licenses through the GA Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. Emory Healthcare’s top priorities are the safety and well-being of its patients.”

Acquiring marijuana from drug dealers or from out-of-state locations can be an unsafe practice, especially since it can be difficult to determine if marijuana is laced with another drug. However, Zarrabi said the Emory Supportive Care Clinic routinely offers drug testing for patients who buy marijuana from unknown suppliers. He explained that while it’s rare to find laced marijuana, it does happen occasionally.

Last year saw one Top in fentanyl-laced drugs, which has led to a rise in overdoses in Georgia. Therefore, having an approved place to buy marijuana and the drug tests that Emory offers can help ensure patients are safe and getting pure marijuana, Zarrabi added.

Although Georgia a historical Red State elections have had mixed results in recent years. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) secured US Senate seats in January 2021, becoming the first Democrats to represent Georgia in the Senate since 2015. They established a slim Democratic majority with 50 Democratic senators and US Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker. After neither Republican candidate Herschel Walker nor Warnock received 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff in the 2022 Senate election.

The Emory Supportive Care Clinic has certified approximately 2,000 patients on medicinal cannabis since 2016. Courtesy of Emory University

The decriminalization of marijuana and the change in federal classification will affect millions of Americans, especially people of color. There is a long history of disproportionate criminalization of marijuana use and possession in black and brown communities. The American Civil Liberties Union reported in 2020 that there were over six million arrests for marijuana between 2010 and 2018 and that a black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than a white person. Additionally, in some states like Montana and Kentucky, black people were almost 10 times more likely to have it arrested for possession of marijuana as a white person.

Despite the previous stigma of marijuana in Georgia, Zarrabi said there has been no opposition from the Emory community regarding patients’ ability to obtain medical marijuana.

Zarrabi said the Emory Supportive Care Clinic has certified around 2,000 patients for medicinal cannabis since 2016. He found that the majority of certified patients had been diagnosed with cancer, chronic pain, and peripheral neuropathy.

According to Zarrabi, the Emory Supportive Care Clinic has been publishing articles since 2016. In a study patients reported that they believed medical marijuana to be most effective in treating chronic pain.

“There are numerous studies showing that cannabis has multiple uses for patients, such as chronic pain and neuropathic pain, and there is new evidence that it can be used for things like anxiety associated with PTSD,” he said Zarrabi.