Rally to End Marijuana Prohibition Held at Georgia Capitol
(APN) ATLANTA — About one hundred opponents of marijuana prohibition rallied at the State Capitol on Saturday, November 12, 2011, to help educate the public and to dispel old, worn out myths and misinformation about marijuana.
Organizations represented at the rally included Georgia For Cannabis, Coalition for Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition (CAMP), Cannabis Reformers, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Georgia Chapter, and Group-Civil Disobedience. The rally is the second annual November rally at the Capitol organized by Jonathon Weaver; the first took place in 2010.
Activists circulated a petition to ask US Representatives and Senators from Georgia to support HB 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011. Currently, the bill, introduced by US Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), has sixteen co-sponsors, none from Georgia.
When running for reelection in 2010, US Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) said he would support legalizing marijuana in an interview with Atlanta Progressive News. In a September 23, 2011, email, APN asked Johnson’s office whether the Congressman would join as a co-sponsor; spokesman Andy Phelan said he would find out, but a response has not yet been received.
Activists said the war on marijuana is a failure and the government wastes billions of dollars fighting drug cartels who thrive on marijuana prohibition each year.
Recent polls show that for the first time in decades, a majority of the US population support full legalization of marijuana.
“50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year. Forty-six percent say marijuana use should remain illegal,” Gallup wrote in an October 17, 2011, release; a record high, Gallup noted.
An Angus Reid poll dated August 09, 2011, found that 55 percent of the US population supports full legalization, while only 40 percent oppose.
“It’s time that our elected officials finally address this staggering discord between public understanding of the harmlessness of cannabis as a drug, especially in comparison to alcohol or tobacco; and the relatively extreme social, personal, and monetary harms of it’s prohibition,” Tim Trout with Cannabis Reformers told APN.
At the rally, Weaver told his story of why he became involved in marijuana policy reform. “When I was fifteen years old I was paralyzed from the chest down by an auto immune disease called Transverse Myelitus in which my white blood cells attacked my spinal cord at the section of the spine called T3,” Weaver said.
“THC [an active chemical in marijuana] has been proven in recent studies, to stimulate nerve cell growth. I didn’t know it at the time but the cannabis I was smoking was actually stimulating my nerve cells to regenerate around the damaged ones. I was told that I would never walk again, but lo and behold in three months time I was up on crutches,” Weaver said.
“Today I am not able to smoke cannabis because I was arrested for possession and I have a court date for that charge. My mother pointed out that she could tell that my legs are getting weaker as I am not smoking. The arrest showed me that all the government wants is my money,” Weaver said.
Russ Belville, National Outreach Coordinator for NORML, came to Atlanta to speak at the rally.
“What should be done and what will be done is the end to cannabis prohibition NOW. I have been to the promised land – Portland, Oregon. The State of Oregon passed medical marijuana in 1998 and I’m a Caregiver in the Portland Medical Marijuana Program,” Belville said.
Thousands of people in Oregon have Caregiver Cards and can grow and possess marijuana. Legalizing medical cannabis has not changed Oregon, and Portland is like any other major city.
“Lots of people are afraid of cannabis and that’s why we are here today. The first step is education because there has been forty years of misinformation and propaganda about cannabis and its users. We can’t lock up sick people who are trying to ease their pain and suffering. It is a waste of our time and lots of money to lock up people who are just getting high,” Belville said.
“The pharmaceutical industry is preventing the legalization of marijuana because it would cut into their profits. People who use marijuana for pain use one-half to one-third the pain killers that they have been prescribed. If you are a company selling pain pills, you don’t want people using one-half of the product you are selling,” Belville explained.
Cannabis does not cause the awful side effects like nausea, constipation, and sedation that Vicodin, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, and other opioid pain pills cause.
“Prohibition does not stop a single person from using cannabis except the people who need it the most. It is the people with cancer, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease who are suffering and can’t get cannabis that are stopped from smoking,” Belville states.
“There is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) action to get the government to reschedule natural plant-derived THC for the pharmaceutical companies. It would allow pharmaceutical companies to grow marijuana plants and take the THC from the buds and put it into a pill then mark up the price and sell to you. That will be legal, but if you grow the same plant and put it in a pipe and smoke it you go to prison,” Belville said.
“We have a right to choose our medicine, we have a right to choose our doctors to prescribe what will help us. It’s an inalienable right that we are able to treat ourselves. I would not let any government entity or police officer tell you how you are going to treat your particular illness or cancer. Don’t stop using cannabis because they say it is illegal or immoral. What is immoral is to allow people with illness to suffer, degrade, and die without treatment by using cannabis,” Paul Cornwell of CAMP said.
“What it’s going to take to change laws is perseverance, knowing the facts, act like responsible citizens, lobby, vote, get registered, and pick out the candidates who are in favor of medical marijuana,” Cornwell said.
“Georgia needs to implement the Medical Marijuana Necessities Act as soon as possible and relieve the suffering of medical patients. Expand the scope of this study from cancer, chemotherapy, and glaucoma to include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and to other illness we know can be helped with medical cannabis,” Cornwell said.
Harry Petree, founder of Georgia For Cannabis, said about two years ago he had an infection in the disks of his back that rendered him bedridden. During his convalescence, he says, “I learned the truth about cannabis and overcame the societal programming and lies I had always believed about marijuana. Now, I know it is a natural plant which can heal you, feed you, and clothe you. It is a survival plant,” Petree said.
GFC provided leaflets on “10 Things Everyone Should Know About Marijuana.”
Some of the information stated marijuana is not addictive, does not lead to hard drugs, does not cause violence; no one has died from using marijuana; and people have been using cannabis since Biblical times.
The GFC leaflet also listed annual global deaths from alcohol [1.8 million], cigarettes [4.9 million], pharmaceuticals [3.5 million], and marijuana .
“With nearly a million taxpaying US citizens being arrested each year for non-violent cannabis possession, it’s shocking how little attention this issue gets in the public forum. As of 2009, the United States had a national incarceration rate of 743 prisoners per every 100,000 people in the total population: That’s the highest incarceration rate of any country on the planet, Trout explained.
A medical professional carried this sign, “Which is worse for seriously ill patients? Marijuana or Prison?”
To date, sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
The Marijuana Policy Project is currently supporting campaigns to establish medical marijuana programs in Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, and New York; and to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Vermont and Rhode Island.
MPP’s goal is for medical marijuana to be legal in at least twenty-five US states, that is, a majority of states, by 2016.