Georgia House Bill 324 legalizes growing, testing, selling and distributing of low THC oil in the 60 dispensaries across the state and provides 8,400 physician-approved patients who need marijuana a place to get it, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Between the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University growing hemp and 60 dispensaries selling it for medical purposes, I believe illegal recreational use of marijuana will increase in the state. Further, I believe HB 324 will be the stepping stone to get recreational marijuana legalized in Georgia, which was not the intention of the bill.
Research conducted by Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health found that after states legalized medical marijuana, an increase in overall marijuana usage occurred. There was an 18% increase in marijuana abuse and dependence among adults ages 21 and up.
Granted, medical marijuana is altered to have low THC levels, the chemical that is responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana, according to the Harvard Medical School. Patients who use medical marijuana experience the benefits of marijuana but without altered psychological effects.
The drug can be used to treat serious illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's Disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Marijuana is safe in low doses, and won’t cause the negative side effects associated with the drugs.
But a second problem arises when we look at the section of the bill stating that recreational use of the drug will still be illegal. A person needs a prescription from a physician to receive marijuana from the 60 designated dispensaries, but I suspect more people will go to their doctor’s office requesting a prescription for marijuana for illnesses like anxiety that is treated with other remedies. People will turn to marijuana because they want the drug, not the treatment, even if the marijuana is not as psychedelic.
It is likely that more young people will acquire medical marijuana to use recreationally.
Recreational marijuana use has been linked to memory loss, lower chances of graduating compared to those who do not use it, dependence on other drugs and a higher chance of suicide, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Repeated marijuana use reduces intellectual capacity and leads to poorer educational outcomes among users, according to the same source. These effects are especially concerning for UGA students and others seeking higher education.
Of course, we should be doing as much as we can to help those who are suffering and in need of relief. Plants offer a natural solution to serious illnesses as opposed to chemically-engineered and synthetic drugs that many people are not comfortable using. But the increased availability of marijuana in the state will increase the availability of the drug throughout the state and increase illegal recreational use of the drug.
The point of the bill is to help people who are suffering severe illnesses, not give a small high to non-ill folks.