The Case of Georgia Parents Jailed for Providing Son Medical Marijuana Reveals Crazy Variation in State Cannabis Laws
It’s common today for people to discuss the divides in the country, typically along political lines. Red state, blue state, etc.
You wouldn't know it from the drastic variations in state laws but one of the issues the country is not particularly divided on is medical marijuana. An astounding 91 percent of people polled earlier this year support medical marijuana. (Support for recreational marijuana legalization for adult use is lower but still a robust 61 percent of adults nationally.) Because the federal government has kept marijuana illegal, states have created a patchwork quilt of laws on cannabis that range from full legalization to prohibition with tough penalties.
That’s led to all kinds of problems. Even two states with legal medical marijuana might have it legal for different conditions. Some states let you use out-of-state marijuana cards to purchase cannabis, others don’t. And no medical marijuana dispensary anywhere is getting services from the big banks as long as the federal government keeps marijuana illegal at the national level.
But two recent stories showed how dramatic the differences in states can be. One involves an arrest in Georgia. The other involves new dispensaries in Ohio. Both are red states, by the way, showing that this issue doesn’t necessarily break neatly along political lines.
The Case in Georgia
In Georgia, where marijuana is illegal for both recreational and medical use, the parents of a teenager suffering from chronic seizures turned to marijuana to relieve their son's suffering. The decision cost them custody of their child.
Matthew and Suzeanna Brill said their son, David, suffered from several seizures every day. They had tried prescription drugs and cannabis oil, but nothing was working. The seizures stopped when they allowed the 15-year-old to smoke marijuana. However, the couple, who live near the city of Macon, said the Twiggs County sheriff’s department paid a visit after Suzeanna Brill told her son’s therapist about allowing him to use marijuana to treat seizures.
The two were arrested and the state’s child protective services department took custody of their son, even after the couple said he had gone without a seizure for 71 days.
“For 71 days he was able to ride a bike, go play, lift weights. We were able to achieve that with David medicated not from Big Pharma, but David medicated with marijuana,” Matthew Brill told the New York Times.
The two parents now face reckless conduct charges that could cost them time in jail and significant fines, to say nothing of a struggle to regain custody of their son. They’ve already spent six days in jail. They are crowdfuning to raise $50,000 for a legal defense fund.
Meanwhile in Ohio.
The same week that the Brill story became a national headline, the state of Ohio announced it will award up to 60 new locations for medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. A new law allowing use of medical marijuana is slated to go into effect in September. Epileptic seizure is one of the medical conditions Ohio will allow to be treated with marijuana.If the Brills lived 400 miles to the north they would have the right to get a prescription to treat their son with medical marijuana instead of going to jail for it.
Even closer to the Brills’ home, Florida has allowed use of medical marijuana to treat epilepsy since January 2017, when voters there decided to expand acceptable uses of medical marijuana. While the details of the Georgia case will certainly be argued, it’s provided a dramatic story to contrast the differences in marijuana laws across the country, often in neighboring states.