Consider the following scenario: You have just received an invitation in the mail from a friend. He is inviting everyone he knows to his beautiful tropical island. All are welcome to visit any time and stay as long as they want. There is just one catch: marauding pirates will attack anyone that comes near the island. The pirates patrol the skies above and the waters below as well as the surface. If you somehow do manage to outwit the pirates and make it to the island, your friend offers an additional warning: he has armed guards that will shoot anyone seen crossing the perimeter beaches. But – if you can make it past all of that – you are quite welcome there.
Now as schizophrenic as this sounds – “please come visit me, I’ll kill you if you try, but please come visit me” – it is not too far removed from the scenario that the government of the state of Georgia has just put into play with the passage of HB1 (also known as “Haleigh’s Hope Act”) and subsequent signing into law by Governor Nathan Deal last week. HB1 legalizes the “possession” of medicinal marijuana. But only in the cannabis oil form. And, only if it is under 20 ounces. And only so long as it contains less than 5% THC. Caveat, conditions, and exceptions – “you can have this…except when… and only if…and as long as…” The politician’s lawmaking cookbook – liberally sprinkled qualifying conjunctions.
Ok, ok, well at least there is now a glimmer of hope for those that have a medical need for it, right? Well, almost. As long as one’s medical condition is on the short “approved” list of ailments: cancer, ALS, seizures, MS, Chrohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle-cell anemia. Funny, I thought Republicans were opposed to the government interfering in the doctor-patient relationship. In any event, if one is unlucky enough to suffer from one of these ailments that still may not be sufficient to qualify. A patient’s case must be considered severe or terminal… not in the opinion of one’s doctor mind you, but rather in the opinion of some faceless state bureaucracy to whom your doctor must now, on bended knee, plead your case whilst kissing its ring.
If a patient makes it past all those hurdles, then they can qualify for a registration card. This is their de facto “get out of jail free” card if they are ever found by police to be in possession of sub-20 ounce 5% dilutions of cannabis oil. But don’t get caught with 21 ounces or a 6% solution, otherwise it’s off to the big house you horrible menace to society you!
So while HB1 offers an invitation to an oasis of potential pain relief (the tropical island) it does not eliminate the marauding pirates or the armed guards. It is still illegal to grow or buy marijuana in Georgia (you know, the stuff you need to actually make the cannabis oil). It is likewise a violation of both Federal and Georgia state law to cross state lines to buy cannabis oil or have it shipped into the state. So to be clear on this: it is legal, pursuant to numerous conditions, to possess cannabis oil, however, all methods of actually acquiring the oil are still illegal. Well, magic as a method is legal. Perhaps the legislature envisions patients performing a Harry Potter style invocation to acquire their needed oil?
I will assume that the bill’s author (Rep. Allen Peake) and its sponsors did not set out to write a bad bill. I suspect they truly do want to help people suffering from the above (and many other unlisted) conditions. The problem is the compromises one must make in politics that whittle otherwise well intentioned legislation down to hollowed out cores of absurdity. This bill is a prime example of the fallacy that compromises are de facto evidence of a principled balancing of interests. If you believe all illegal aliens should be shot and I believe none should, then it is hardly a principled balancing of interests to say we shall only shoot half of them. Likewise if I believe that any substance that can relieve pain and suffering should be obtainable without artificial barriers but you believe that the risk of even one person getting “high” outweighs the pain and suffering of millions, then it is a meaningless compromise indeed to say patients can legally possess those substances but that actions aimed at possession are illegal. Empty, hollow rhetoric – nothing more.
Mix one part irrational fear with one part representative democracy and you get a society with needless pain and suffering. None should ever be allowed to suffer because of fears of what might be, lest we become prisoners entombed behind the bars of potential acts.