Honorable Committee members,
To those of you supporting HB722, kudos!! To those of you who are trying to pick it apart and stonewall it, shame on you!! I am a retired AF Veteran. I am also a retired Georgia Peace Officer. Most importantly at this stage, I am a supporter of HB722.
I am 65 years old. I enlisted in the Air Force in 1971. I was a young, dumb Alabama boy. My dad was a stern Southern Baptist preacher (which is what brought him to Georgia after I left home). I didn't know what marijuana was. It was the last few years of the Vietnam War and it didn't take long to find out about it in the Air Force.
I smoked marijuana socially for 14 years, from '71 to '85. During that time I grew into a strong Non-Commissioned Officer, graduating from two NCO Schools at the top of my class and taking 3 out of 5 awards in each of those schools. Then Operation Golden Flow kicked into high gear and I realized "Hey dumbass, you have 6 years left until you can retire and have a little pension for the rest of your life". So I quit.
This was just months before I was meritoriously promoted to Master Sergeant for a cutting edge software program I'd helped develop for the Reprographics field (among other accomplishments). That promotion got me an assignment to HQ Strategic Air Command in Omaha Nebraska. I went on to retire in 1991. I moved to Georgia, because that's where the folks were. I bought a place in East Dublin and started looking for work.
I went to the Laurens County Sheriff's Office and was hired that day. I worked there from Jan 1992 until June 1998, becoming a Patrol Sergeant. I took a break from Law Enforcement for a couple of years, then was appointed Chief Deputy by Sheriff Rusty Oxford of Johnson County in January 2001. I held that position until January of 2008 and my Peace Officer Status is Career Retired.
Having been a recreational user, I never got heated up about marijuana cases. To the best of my recollection I never made a less than an ounce case. I dumped a lot of it on the side of the road and sent some folks packin' to the house though. Discretion is at the point of contact, and I saw what Georgia's misdemeanor Marijuana Laws did to young lives. I couldn't, in good conscious, do that to someone.
During the course of the years I'd developed some chronic back pain. Turns out I have some herniated disks. I also developed sciatica and several other "old man" problems. The VA was happy to put me on hydrocodone, tramadol, gabapentin, tamsulosin, ambien, trazadone, flexeril. zoloft and keppra as time progressed. All of these medications carry that pesky "may cause dizziness or drowsiness" warning. I was, for all intents and purposes, a zombie.
In 2011 I moved to Nebraska to spend some extended time with my two daughters and five grandchildren. My son-in-law was on the back deck smoking a bowl one morning and I decided "Why not"? Nebraska is a decrim State and any risks were essentially non-existent. The first thing that struck me about it was the fact that I didn't even think about my pain meds that morning. My back is ALWAYS painful, even with the opiates, and it's still painful with the cannabis, but the "high" .. technically Euphoria .. that so many of the fear-mongers are concerned with, let's me deal with it. It INSTANTLY makes it better. It makes me want to get up and DO something, instead of sitting around in a narcotic induced fog as I was on the VA meds. I know from experience that THC works for me. I've figured out my own dosing requirements and I stick to them rather strictly, although I admit to blazing one up socially on occasion.
Using cannabis allowed me to get off ALL the medications I listed above. I'm no longer the lackadaisical, fat slob that I'd turned into. I've lost 90 pounds over the past few years. I'm more active, more engaged. I honestly feel better than I've felt in 10 years, but .... I had to move back to Georgia to help care for my 90 year old mother who is eaten up with arthritis, so now, instead of a "civil infraction", I face a misdemeanor charge if arrested for possession.
What's this got to do with HB722? Everything!
This is a cry to let the FULL benefits of this plant be examined, in Georgia, under controlled conditions, so that we know what levels of CBD/THC work best for what conditions and we are absolutely positive that the medicine is SAFE. It is a cry to give these "legal" patients the full access that they so desperately need. As for me, none of the conditions I suffer from are on that very restrictive list, so I'll be denied access to CBD/THC Oil unless "the list" is expanded, even beyond what HB722 asks for. I'm not really worried about that. I'll continue to get my medicine (which is what I use it for) illegally if I must.
I really don't give a damn about a misdemeanor pot charge. As I've stated, I'm 65, an honorably retired veteran and honorably retired Georgia Peace Officer. My record of service to both this Country and this State speak for themselves. I've never been arrested. Hell, I haven't had a speeding ticket in over 20 years. I don't CARE if I'm arrested for a misdemeanor marijuana charge.
More and more Georgians are developing that attitude, also. 84.5% of Georgians are pro-medical. 62% are in favor of full legalization. A bad law is a bad law, and I'll put my trust in the jury nullification process if I'm ever arrested. There won't be a plea for me. I'll take it to a jury. If you were going to Vegas and had a 62% chance of winning, would you roll those dice? I will. The worst you can do is give me a year in county. I'll get 2 for 1 off the jump, so that's 6 months. You'll have to address my medical issues, and it'll be costly. I've also survived two heart attacks, including a triple by-pass. The meds alone will cost the county an arm and a leg.
I'm also a certified jailer, so I'll be watching things like a hawk, keeping notes, so I can expose any Civil Rights violations I observe (and they are RAMPANT in Georgia jails). I might just wind up rich. I'm a retired cop, so they'll have to house me separately. I'm pretty sure the Sheriff where I live doesn't want me in his jail! So you go ahead and play your silly games with the recreational "boogey-man". I'm not asking for your PERMISSION to use the only option you've left me with, regardless of the risks and regardless of any law restricting my access to it. BUT, you need to give the folks that will be covered under an expanded HB722 what they need.
I heard testimony yesterday that lets me know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I'm engaged with YOUR constituents, all over this State, who feel the same way I do and there are folks lining up to run against you if you don't get this right. I'm not just a "keyboard commando". I almost, ALMOST, want to apologize for the tone of this letter. I appreciate the fact that you are doing what YOU consider best for Georgia, but some of YOU need to be listening to your constituency, a concept some of you apparently ignore. 62% is a majority, and it will increase. 84.5% is an even clearer majority. Run your own polls. The writing is on the wall. It's now just a matter of how long you want to delay it, and how quickly that 62% or 84.5% can be brought to bear and get you out of office.
Nah, I won't apologize.
Jerald T. (Tom) McCain
Tom is a Retired USAF Master Sergeant, Retired Peace Officer, Peachtree N.O.R.M.L. Advisory Board Member, CEO of Georgia Hemp Industries Association and Executive Director of Spartacus Legal Foundation