Originally published in The Jackson Herald on January 27, 2016

This is Part 3 of a 3 part series. If you haven't read Part 1, click here, or Part 2, click here.

The pot is in the pot.

I’m growing marijuana.

As I announced three weeks ago, I’m growing a marijuana plant as an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to a much-needed medical law in the Georgia Legislature.

Last year, the Legislature approved allowing certain medical patients to have up to 20 oz. of medical cannabis oil. But the state didn’t create a legal way for patients to get the oil in the state.

This year, another bill is pending in Atlanta that would allow a handful of state regulated companies to grow, harvest and produce the medical cannabis oil in Georgia for those patients. The state House supports the idea, but the state Senate is unclear and Gov. Nathan Deal has spoken against it.

As most readers know, this is personal for me. I have a son who has suffered from a major seizure disorder for 15 years. I don’t know if cannabis oil could help him, but as a parent, I want all options available. To withhold that option, or make it unreasonably difficult, is simply cruel.

When I first began this medical pot protest, I intended to just grow a regular marijuana plant from seeds available locally. But I decided instead to grow a special medical strain of the plant similar to what would be grown if this year’s legislation is approved.
After looking around, I ordered a marijuana seed from a European company known as MED GOM 1.0. It’s a small plant suited to grow indoors and it grows quickly, producing flowers in around nine weeks.

The seed was mailed to me from Europe three weeks ago. I ordered an LED grow light and heating pad from Amazon.com to accommodate my growing efforts.

Last Tuesday, it all arrived. I watered the dirt, put in the seed, then set it all up in a south-facing window so it will get as much daylight as possible. Saturday morning, a small shoot popped up out of the dirt. It’s now about 1/8” high as it reaches up for the light.
I don’t have a green thumb. I hope I don’t kill it. If it needs help, I’ll put on an old Grateful Dead album and let Jerry Garcia play music for it.

I don’t intend to harvest my marijuana plant for consumption — I’m growing it as a symbol of hope for the thousands of people in Georgia who might benefit from use of the cannabis oil. I’m also growing it as a protest aimed at those who irrationally oppose allowing cultivation of medical marijuana in the state.

I’ve learned a lot during the last three weeks after I first announced my intention to grow marijuana. I’ve had a huge response from people all across the state and from around the country who understand and support what I’m trying to do.

Every single comment, email and phone call I’ve received has been positive and supportive. Not one person has contacted me to voice opposition to the production of medical cannabis oil.

The protest has also gotten a lot of outside media coverage. Several radio and television stations have interviewed me and other newspapers have also picked up coverage of my little protest marijuana. Dozens of websites and blogs have linked to my articles.

There is a huge groundswell of support in the state for this legislation. People understand the difference between medical use and recreational use of marijuana — they strongly support medical use.

If Georgia leaders fail to act on making medical cannabis oil available this year, it will be a huge embarrassment to the state. Georgia officials say they want the state to become a leader in biotechnology, and opposition to this kind of medical research would make a mockery of that.

I’ve also learned over the last three weeks that there is a huge underground market for cannabis oil. Just Google it and dozens of places purporting to sell medical cannabis will pop up on your screen.

But therein lies a key issue in the legislative debate. A lot of these online oils are of uncertain quality. Many appear to be scams that appeal to people desperate for a cure to dozens of illnesses.

When someone buys cannabis oil online, he may get snake oil rather than the real thing. Much of it could be “moonshine marijuana,” not medical cannabis that is tested for quality control.

Which is why Georgia leaders should approve the regulated production of cannabis oil in the state. Not only does that make getting the oil here legal and easier, it also protects Georgia citizens desperate for help from being scammed by unscrupulous hucksters.

Producing medical cannabis oil is not easy. The strain of plant, how it is grown and how it is cultivated affects the quality of medical oil. Growing cannabis today is a highly sophisticated botanical process; it’s not the old “weed-in-the-woods” from my youth in the 1970s.

For those needing cannabis oil for medical reasons, quality and consistency is critical, just like with any other medication. A state regulated process would help ensure that.

But there are some who are opposed to the state allowing medical marijuana production. The state sheriff’s association and prosecuting council association are lobbying against it in the legislature. That has spooked some state Senators and Gov. Nathan Deal who has voiced opposition to the plan.

But this is a medical issue between doctors, parents and patients. This is not a criminal issue. As far as I’m concerned, the state’s sheriffs and prosecutors have no standing in the matter. Doctors don’t lobby the legislature about law enforcement concerns and the state’s sheriffs and prosecutors should not be lobbying about medical concerns.

A final thought. Making this cannabis oil available now to Georgians isn’t the end, it’s just a beginning. In the coming years as more medical research is done on cannabis, we will know more about the plant’s compounds for medical use. Because of overly strict federal regulations, true medical research of marijuana is just now beginning.

But those suffering from seizures and other serious neurological disorders today can’t wait another decade for all of that to happen. They need help — and hope — now. And since cannabis is relatively harmless — nobody has ever overdosed on marijuana — there’s no real reason to not make its medical use available now.

Georgia needs to finish what it began last year when it approved the possession of medical cannabis oil. This year, the state needs to make quality oil available here in Georgia for those patients.

That’s what Rep. Allen Peake is attempting to do with HB 722 currently pending in the state Legislature. His fellow House members have lined up strongly in support of his efforts.

Now it’s up to the state Senate and Gov. Nathan Deal to also get on board and approve this legislation. There is no legitimate reason to oppose it. Opposition is more about an outdated stigma than reality.

While we await the outcome of Rep. Peake’s legislation, I’ll continue to grow my little marijuana plant as a political statement about this debate.

(If you want to follow the progress of my marijuana plant, go here to dadsmedicalpotplant.com where you can see a live video feed.)