Flash Back: How Georgia Legalized Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Laws
A ‘Tiger Of A Woman Takes On Conservative
Georgia And Wins A Battle For Cancer Victims
Knight-Ridder Newspapers

ATLANTA – Mona Taft listened in horror as her songwriter husband, Harris, wearily announced that he no longer would take the chemotherapy treatments he needed to postpone death by cancer.
No longer could he stand to retch and vomit for five to 10 hours after each treatment. No longer could he take the pain.
“He couldn’t sleep. The treatment was making him weaker than the disease. He was tired of the fight, tired of the agony. He just wanted to quit,” said Mona Taft, her voice and hands trembling at the memory.
Then one day a sympathetic nurse took Harris Taft, 32, aside, “I’ve heard marijuana helps fight the nausea,” she said, “We can’t prescribe it. We can’t even suggest it. But if I were you, I’d sure get me some.”
“Harris said, ‘What the hell, I’ll try it”, Mona Taft recalled.
Neither Mona nor Harris smoked marijuana. They called a friend who did. That night, after one joint, Harris Taft slept soundly. It was his first full night’s sleep in six months. A few days later, in June 1979, he died. But he made his weeping wife promise to tell others how much peace marijuana had brought him.
Mona Taft went to the capitol in Georgia, one of the most conservative states in the South, and began to lobby legislators for a bill that would make it legal for cancer victims to use marijuana.
“Eight months ago,” she said, “they told me I was crazy. They said it couldn’t be done in one year – not in Georgia, where everybody is up in arms about all the dope coming up from Florida. One senator said, ‘God, you’re trying to get it out on the streets? This is an election year.’
On Tuesday, the Georgia Senate passed Mona Taft’s bill. The vote was 50-0. Last week the House passed it, 158-6. Gov. George Busbee has promised to sign it into law.
After the votes were counted, Sen. Paul C. Broun, D. – Athens, hugged Mona Taft. They wept, “You know,” said Broun, “my wife just died of cancer.”
That such a law could be passed on the first try in Georgia, legislators agreed, was a testament to the perseverance and determination of Mona Taft, who lobbied more than half the members of the Legislature for up to an hour each, beginning the day after her husband’s death.
“That woman is a tiger,” Gov. Busbee told aides after Mrs. Taft visited his office early in the session.
But if the new law is a testament to the power of a determined lobbyist, it also is evidence of increasing realization in southern medical and political circles that marijuana can be an important tool in the battle against cancer and glaucoma.
In the past three years, 17 states have passed legislation making marijuana or its active ingredient, THC, available to terminal cancer victims. Of those, seven – including Florida – are in the South. Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina are considering similar laws.
Yet only four states, New Mexico, Washington, Illinois and Louisiana, have been able to implement their laws and actually make the marijuana available to cancer patients under less stringent rules than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration uses to run its federal program.
Cancer specialists say that the FDA requires “a lot of red tape and a lot of rigamarole” before it will allow a doctor to provide marijuana to his patients.
The FDA also must approve programs, such as Georgia’s, proposed by states. And it has taken its time in doing so.
Florida, for example, adopted its law two years ago. Its sponsor, Rep. Lee Moffitt, D – Tampa, said recently that he expects the Florida program to b approved soon.
Cancer specialists in the Atlanta area say that as more states approve the use of marijuana for therapeutic uses, the political pressure on the FDA will be so great that it will have to ease its restrictions.
The Georgia law calls for doctors to prescribe marijuana grown on a government research farm at the University of Mississippi. Before a doctor could prescribe it, he would have to have a state board of physicians certify that his patient needed the marijuana to relieve nausea caused by chemotherapy.
Sponsors of the Georgia law are confident they can get quick FDA approval because they have patterned their law after the one in New Mexico, the first state to win approval of a state program.
Georgia legislators were quick to warn that Tuesday’s vote is no indication that the state is moving closer to legalization of marijuana for the general public. In fact, it just recently passed a law mandating stiff sentences for drug pushers.
“Mona Taft’s bill whipped through so easily because cancer has touched so many people in this Legislature, just like it has touched so many people everywhere,” said one senator. “Look around you and you’ll find that almost everybody has had a case of cancer in his family.”
Rep. Virlyn Smith, R – Fairburn, was the House sponsor of Mrs. Taft’s bill. He has lung cancer. He sat in the House cloakroom recently telling Mona how he had given a recipe for marijuana-laced chocolate chip cookies to a constituent who is taking chemotherapy.
“After I found I had cancer,” Smith said, “I got a call from a 52-year-old constituent who has been on chemotherapy quite a while. Someone had told her marijuana might ease her problem. After she had lost down to 90 pounds and was weak as a baby, she was at the end of her rope. She made it into brownies because she couldn’t smoke it. The nausea went away and she was able to live almost normally.
“She wanted to let me know marijuana would help me if I had to take chemotherapy.”
“It just eats me up inside,” said Mona Taft. “If this bill had passed a few years ago, my husband wouldn’t have had to suffer so. At least it will help other people so they won’t have to die in agony.”

Cannabis Awarness – Facts & Information

Today, March 14, 2013 is “Cannabis Awareness Day” at the Georgia state capitol. This event coincides with Peachtree NORML’s (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) “Cannabis Quilt Display” on the capitol plaza at 2 PM.

Commonly known as “marijuana”, cannabis has been used for benefit of mankind for over 5000 years for fiber, fuels and medicine.

Over several decades Georgia has spent billions of tax dollars attempting to enforce draconian prohibition laws against cannabis “marijuana”. The results have been devastating and ineffective in eliminating the desire of Georgians to use marijuana. It is estimated nearly 1 million Georgians use marijuana annually.

In Georgia, more than 35,000 arrests occur for marijuana offenses each year. 85% of these arrests are for possession, accounting for 55% of all drug arrests.

Today, March 14th, about 100 people will be arrested for possession of marijuana in Georgia.

Prohibition has diverted valuable resources away from real crimes against people and property. Marijuana arrests takes law enforcement officers off the streets; fill our county jails and clog courts; overcrowds our state prison system; renders defendants unemployable and stigmatizes otherwise law abiding and productive citizens.

Organizations Working for Marijuana Law Reform:

Georgia Campaign for Access, Reform & Education – www.gacareproject.com

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws – www.peachtreenorml.org

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) – www.leap.cc

Marijuana Policy Project – www.mpp.org

Law Reform:

Many options are available when considering reform of marijuana laws. Medicalization, decriminalization and legalization are all viable options for consideration. Various forms of regulation, control and taxation can and should be considered.

Medical Marijuana:

In 1980, the Georgia General Assembly unanimously passed a medical marijuana research act, (Controlled Substance Therapeutic Research Act – Code 43-34-120) becoming one of the first states to recognize the medical benefits of marijuana. With support of Lt. Gov. Zell Miller, House Speaker Tom Murphy, Rep. Virlyn Smith and Governor George Busbee, this landmark legislation opened the doors to therapeutic cannabis. The law relied upon federal cooperation and supply, therefore rendering the law cumbersome and ineffective in accomplishing its goal to further the research into the benefits of medical marijuana.

The legislation stated: “(Studies) indicate that marijuana and certain of its derivatives possess valuable and in some cases, unique therapeutic properties, including the ability to relieve nausea and vomiting which routinely accompany chemotherapy and irradiation used to treat cancer patients.” It also cited the benefit in reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.

Currently, 18 states, including the District of Columbia, passed medical marijuana laws. These enacting states should be used to determine the best course of action for Georgia.


Georgia has some of the most severe penalties for marijuana in the nation. Possession of less than one ounce (28 grams) carries up to one year in jail and $1000 fine. More than one ounce (29+ grams) carries up to ten years in prison.

Georgia should consider what real impact an individual who smokes marijuana has on public safety versus the cost to enforce these laws. Under decriminalization various scenarios can be considered.

Less than one ounce (personal possession) could be considered a civil infraction to be dealt with on the county or municipal level similar to a traffic ticket.

Misdemeanor and felony amounts could be raised. For example, a misdemeanor amount could be up to four ounces with fines and little or no prison time and the felony amount could be set over four ounces.

These scenarios could dramatically reduce the risk of prison time while allowing penalties for possession.


  1. Georgia can begin law reform by elimination of jail and prison time for less than 4 ounce of marijuana. Remaining penalties will be sufficient enough for the state to show disapproval and discouragement of marijuana use. This reform will shift limited resources to more serious offenses. 
  2. Parole anyone serving time for possession of marijuana and return them to their families and community.
  3. Pardon those who have successfully completed their sentence for marijuana offense so as to not harm their ability to find jobs and earn a living. 

Industrial Hemp

Long before Cannabis Sativa (Marijuana) became widely used as an intoxicant, the world’s farmers and industrialists utilized the plant for food, fiber and fuel. If hemp was legal to grow in Georgia it would create multi-million dollar industries and would generate such goods as: bio-fuels, building materials, textile manufacturing, etc. Listed below are some facts about the many uses of the hemp plant for your consideration.

*Henry Ford experimented with hemp to build car bodies. He wanted to build and fuel cars from farm products.

*BMW is experimenting with hemp materials in automobiles as part of an effort to make cars more recyclable.

*Much of the bird seed sold in the US has hemp seed (it’s sterilized before importation), the hulls of which contain about 25% protein.

*Hemp oil once greased machines. Most paints, resins, shellacs, and varnishes used to be made out of linseed (from flax) and hemp oils.

*Rudolph Diesel designed his engine to run on hemp oil.

*Kimberly Clark (on the Fortune 500) has a mill in France which produces hemp paper preferred for bibles because it lasts a very long time and doesn’t yellow.

*Construction products such as medium density fiber board, oriented strand board, and even beams, studs and posts could be made out of hemp. Because of hemp’s long fibers, the products will be stronger and/or lighter than those made from wood.

*The products that can be made from hemp number over 25,000.

*Industrial hemp and marijuana are both classified by taxonomists as Cannabis sativa, a species with hundreds of varieties. C. sativa is a member of the mulberry family. Industrial hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and/or oil, while marijuana varieties seek to maximize THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).

*While industrial hemp and marijuana may look somewhat alike to an untrained eye, an easily trained eye can easily distinguish the difference.

*Industrial hemp has a THC content of between 0.05 and 1%. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% to 20%. To receive a standard psychoactive dose would require a person to power-smoke 10-12 hemp cigarettes over an extremely short period of time. The large volume and high temperature of vapor, gas and smoke would be almost impossible for a person to withstand.

*If hemp does pollinate any nearby marijuana, genetically, the result will always be lower-THC marijuana, not higher-THC hemp. If hemp is grown outdoors, marijuana will not be grown close by to avoid producing lower-grade marijuana.

*Hemp fibers are longer, stronger, more absorbent and more mildew-resistant than cotton.

*Fabrics made of at least one-half hemp block the sun’s UV rays more effectively than other fabrics.

*Many of the varieties of hemp that were grown in North America have been lost. Seed banks weren’t maintained. New genetic breeding will be necessary using both foreign and domestic “ditchweed,” strains of hemp that went feral after cultivation ended. Various state national guard units often spend their weekends trying to eradicate this hemp, in the mistaken belief they are helping stop drug use.

*A 1938 Popular Mechanics described hemp as a “New Billion Dollar Crop.” That’s back when a billion was real money.
*Hemp can be made in to a variety of fabrics, including linen quality.

*The US Drug Enforcement Agency classifies all C. sativa varieties as “marijuana.” While it is theoretically possible to get permission from the government to grow hemp, DEA would require that the field be secured by fence, razor wire, dogs, guards, and lights, making it cost-prohibitive.

*The US State Department must certify each year that a foreign nation is cooperating in the war on drugs. The European Union subsidizes its farmers to grow industrial hemp. Those nations are not on this list, because the State Department can tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

*Hemp was grown commercially (with increasing governmental interference) in the United States until the 1950s. It was doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which placed an extremely high tax on marijuana and made it effectively impossible to grow industrial hemp. While Congress expressly expected the continued production of industrial hemp, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics lumped industrial hemp with marijuana, as it’s successor the US Drug Enforcement Administration, does to this day.

*Over 30 industrialized democracies do distinguish hemp from marijuana. International treaties regarding marijuana make an exception for industrial hemp.

*Canada now again allows the growing of hemp.

* Hemp growers can not hide marijuana plants in their fields. Marijuana is grown widely spaced to maximize leaves. Hemp is grown in tightly-spaced rows to maximize stalk and is usually harvested before it goes to seed.

*Hemp can be made into fine quality paper. The long fibers in hemp allow such paper to be recycled several times more than wood-based paper.

*Because of its low lignin content, hemp can be pulped using less chemicals than with wood. Its natural brightness can obviate the need to use chlorine bleach, which means no extremely toxic dioxin being dumped into streams. A kinder and gentler chemistry using hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine dixoide is possible with hemp fibers.

*Hemp grows well in a variety of climates and soil types. It is naturally resistant to most pests, precluding the need for pesticides. It grows tightly spaced, out-competing any weeds, so herbicides are not necessary. It also leaves a weed-free field for a following crop.

*Hemp can displace cotton which is usually grown with massive amounts of chemicals harmful to people and the environment. 50% of all the world’s pesticides are sprayed on cotton.

*Hemp can displace wood fiber and save forests for watershed, wildlife habitat, recreation and oxygen production, carbon sequestration (reduces global warming), and other values.

*Hemp can yield 3-8 dry tons of fiber per acre. This is four times what an average forest can yield.

*If one tried to ingest enough industrial hemp to get ‘a buzz’, it would be the equivalent of taking 2-3 doses of a high-fiber laxative.

*At a volume level of 81%, hemp oil is the richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the “good” fats). It’s quite high in some essential amino acids, including gamma linoleic acid (GLA), a very rare nutrient also found in mother’s milk.

*While the original “gruel” was made of hemp seed meal, hemp oil and seed can be made into tasty and nutritional products. Prepared by the North American Industrial Hemp Council, October 1997

Cannabis Conference Atlanta March 15 & 16

Georgia CARE (Campaign for Access, Reform & Education) will participate in the first Southern Cannabis Reform Conference March 15 & 16 at the Spring St. & 4th St. event center hosted by the Peachtree Chapter of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Peachtree NORML).

James Bell, director of Georgia CARE, will speak Friday morning on “Marijuana Law Reform: Moving Georgia Forward”. Bell will reveal his vision for changing marijuana laws in Georgia.

The two day conference is the first of its kind in Atlanta and will attract activists from around the country to discuss cannabis and strategies to change the laws.

Others participants include:

Diane Goldstein: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition – Lieutenant Commander, Redondo Beach (CA) Police Department (Ret.)

Russ Belville: The Independent Voice of the Marijuana Nation on 420radio.org

Robert Platshorn: Author of the Black Tuna Diaries and America’s longest imprisoned (30 years) nonviolent marijuana offender.

Ron Crumpton: Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition – Medical Marijuana Patient

Rick Day: Georgia NORML – Reform Activist – Spring4th Center Owner

Adrian Bernal: The Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity

Ebony Knight: Artist, Activist & Ambassador

Chris Butts: Alabama Medical Marijuana Association

Rebecca Forbes: American Cannabis Coalition

Paul Cornwell: Marijuana Activist since 1978 – Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition (CAMP)

Sabrina Fendrick: Founder and director of NORML Women’s Alliance

Walker Chandler: Esquire: Nationally recognized trail attorney

Sharon Ravert: Peachtree NORML, Executive Director – Moms for Marijuana

Jamie Haase: Greenville, S.C. L.E.A.P.

Candace Junkin: Assistant Director of Moms for Marijuana International