Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 324 into law that allows Georgians to produce, manufacture and dispense low THC oil medical marijuana.

The legalization of medical marijuana sales represents an important step in improving the state’s ability to care for those with long term pain and opens the state to a burgeoning market.

Medical marijuana was actually legal in Georgia before the bill, but it was illegal to purchase cannabis in the state, making it hard for the 9,500 registered medical marijuana patients in Georgia to obtain the drug. The law will now allow them to legally purchase cannabis oil, enabling them to find the relief they need.

Legalizing the production and selling of marijuana could provide relief to those with chronic pain. Medical marijuana is most frequently used to treat chronic pain, which millions of Americans suffer from. It appears to lessen discomfort from nerve pain, tremors from Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder in returning veterans.

Medical marijuana could also reduce opiate usage and help the government to combat the opioid crisis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on average 130 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids, and opioids accounted for around 68% of the total number of drug overdoses in 2017. And the problem appears to be getting worse, as the number of deaths involving opioids was six times greater than in 1999.

Marijuana offers a solution. According to Harvard Medical School, patients often use marijuana and opioids to treat the same conditions. However, marijuana is far less dangerous than opioids. Whereas opioids have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, it is impossible to overdose on marijuana, and marijuana is not nearly as addictive. Thus, it stands to reason that the legalization of medical marijuana will empower those suffering from chronic pain to obtain safer medication instead of opioids, leading to a decline in the opioid crisis.

Melissa Nguyen, a junior studying management information systems, said she supports the legislation because it will give help to those who need it.

“I don’t have anything against it,” Nguyen said. “I feel like if people who need it ... then it’s a good program for Georgia.”

In addition to the medical benefits, the bill could lead to economic growth. The Motley Fool reports that over 50% of current cannabis sales come from oils and derivatives, which would include the cannabis oil Georgia growers can now grow and sell. In addition, Colorado posted medical marijuana sales of over $332 million in 2018. With the new law, Georgia can gain a share of these sales, providing the state with more commerce and tax revenue.

The University of Georgia and its students will also benefit from the new law, which grants the university the ability to produce, manufacture and purchase low THC oil. The new law will give UGA the ability to grow and study marijuana, creating new jobs and hands-on experience opportunities for students in horticulture and agriculture. These opportunities will enrich student learning and show the tangible benefits medical marijuana can bring to the state.

Medical marijuana has proven to be an effective solution to chronic pain in several states. Georgia has made the right choice in following their lead and will now reap the many benefits.

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