The Marijuana Debate

It is now legal to smoke marijuana in Georgia since a court ruling on July 30.

This decision has been met with controversy throughout the country, though it has become apparent that the vast majority of those speaking out are ill-informed about the drug, being unsure exactly what marijuana is, how it works and what the short- and long-term effects are of using it. It is also necessary to emphasize the responsibility that comes with marijuana use, just as we do with the use of alcohol: you don’t go to work drunk, so why would you go to work high? The use of any substance, be it for medicinal or recreational use, should be looked at from a responsible point of view.

How do the people feel about drugs in Georgia?

A survey conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center in May 2018 surveyed the attitudes on drug-related issues, finding that 72% of all respondents said there should be no punishment for using light drugs such as marijuana. 50% of all respondents said they felt the same way about club drugs such as ecstasy, while 43% of all respondents thought intravenous drug users should not be imprisoned.

Comparing these statistics to the use of alcohol, Georgia is ranked 67th among 200 countries worldwide in the consumption of alcohol. Statistically, the average Georgian consumed 7.7 liters of alcohol (calculated by amount of pure alcohol, not beverage) last year, which includes men and women above the age of 15. The health impact on the body from alcohol is enormous, arguably more so than that of marijuana, yet its use has been legal for years. Looking at the average household, it is the responsibility of any parent, grandparent or legal guardian to teach a child that alcohol is only to be consumed in a responsible manner. With marijuana now being legal, the responsibility of teaching again falls on the parent.

It’s not just a battle of health and safety: business in Georgia can be effected in a positive way as well, as indicated by an analysis done of the US states of Colorado and Georgia. Legalization campaigner Zurab Japaridze said that it can produce a 7% - 8% annual growth for the economy.

What is marijuana, how does it affect your body and where does it come from?

Marijuana has roots as far back as 2737 B.C. where it was referenced in ancient Chinese medicine. By 500 A.D. it had spread from China to India, North Africa, and Europe.

Historically reported medicinal uses included treating rheumatism, gout, and malaria.

Recreational use became popular in India among the Muslim population, leading to the development and popularization of hashish, a concentrated psychoactive resin from the cannabis plant. In 1545, Spanish explorers brought the plant to North America. In 1611, it was introduced in Jamestown and quickly became a staple commercial crop. By 1890, cotton replaced hemp, a variant of marijuana, as the major cash crop and marijuana effectively fell off the market.

In the 1920s in the US, there was a big resurgence in marijuana use. At the time, smoking marijuana was legal and not considered a social threat. Marijuana clubs began popping up in major cities. It was even listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942, used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism.

Marijuana in its many guises, including weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane and a vast number of other slang terms, is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. Most people smoke marijuana, but it can also be used to brew tea and, particularly when it is sold or consumed for medicinal purposes, is frequently mixed into foods such as cookies, cakes or candies. Vaporizers are also increasingly used in marijuana consumption.

The main mind-altering chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The chemical is found in resin produced by the leaves and buds primarily of the female cannabis plant. The plant also contains more than 500 other chemicals, including more than 100 compounds that are chemically related to THC, called cannabinoids.

When marijuana smoke is inhaled, the chemicals are carried through the bloodstream, saturating the body. THC is a very potent chemical compared to other psychoactive drugs. Once in your bloodstream, THC typically reaches the brain seconds after it is inhaled and begins to go to work.

Marijuana users often describe the experience of smoking the drug as initially relaxing and mellow. It is said to create a feeling of haziness and light-headedness, depending on the strain used. The user's eyes may dilate, causing colors to appear more intense, and other senses may be enhanced. The interaction of the THC with the brain is what causes these feelings. To understand how marijuana affects the brain, you need to know about the parts of the brain that are affected by THC. Covering the basics, neurons are the cells that process information in the brain. Chemicals called neurotransmitters allow neurons to communicate with each other. Neurotransmitters fill the gap, or synapse, between two neurons and bind to protein receptors, which allow various functions in the brain and body to be turned on and off. Some neurons have thousands of receptors that are specific to particular neurotransmitters. Foreign chemicals, like THC, can mimic or block the actions of neurotransmitters and interfere with normal functions.

Your brain has groups of cannabinoid receptors concentrated in several different places. These cannabinoid receptors can affect the following mental and physical activities: short-term memory, coordination, learning and problem-solving.

Cannabinoid receptors are activated by a neurotransmitter called anandamide. Like THC, anandamide is a cannabinoid, but this one is naturally produced by the body. THC mimics the actions of anandamide, binding with cannabinoid receptors to activate neurons which result in adverse effects on the mind and body. High concentrations of cannabinoid receptors exist in the hippocampus, cerebellum and basal ganglia. The hippocampus sits within the temporal lobe and is important for short-term memory. When the THC binds with the cannabinoid receptors inside the hippocampus, it interferes with the recollection of recent events. THC also affects coordination, which the cerebellum controls. The basal ganglia direct unconscious muscle movements, which is another reason why motor coordination is impaired when under the influence of marijuana.

A combination of all these effects results in the user feeling “high;” however, there is another main component in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD). This is where most of the medicinal uses are derived from.

Medicinal uses

In a study, mice with pancreatic cancer were treated with a combination of CBD and chemotherapy. The mice survived nearly three times longer than those treated with chemotherapy alone.

CBD is a non-intoxicating compound in marijuana and has already been shown to improve the side effects of chemotherapy like nausea and vomiting. The latest results provide more justification for testing on humans, building on prior animal research that uncovered possible anti-cancer properties in the compound.

"Cannabidiol is already approved for use in clinics [in the UK], which means we can quickly go on to test this in human clinical trials,” said lead researcher Marco Falasca from the Queen Mary University of London.

A number of other studies have found that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana can be a helpful treatment to pain caused by damaged nerves. Smoked marijuana has also helped improve food intake in HIV patients in studies. No official studies have yet been conducted on people regarding the effects of marijuana oil or hemp oil. Studies have long shown that people who took marijuana extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine.

More recently, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce the spread of some forms of cancer. There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.

However, what many do not realize is that relying on marijuana alone as a treatment, while avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer, may have serious health consequences.

Contrary to what most people believe or say, marijuana can also pose some harm to users, even if not directly. While the most common effect of marijuana is a feeling of euphoria, it also can lower the user’s control over movement, cause disorientation, and sometimes cause unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia.

Smoked marijuana delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, but it also delivers harmful substances to users: ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide and certain aromatic amines are contained in the smoke of marijuana, however these are also found in cigarettes. The levels vary depending on how the plant is grown and what fertilizer is used.


There have been no reports of fatal overdose caused by marijuana, but the danger does not lie there. The danger of marijuana, much like alcohol, is the irresponsible use of it, leading to unwanted accidents or unforeseen outcomes and this is what seems to have triggered the greatest fear in anti-legislators in Georgia following the July 30 announcement from the Constitutional Court.

Marijuana use has been legalized in Georgia, and we expect much social debate and eventual legal enforcement and awareness-raising to ensure that citizens who wish to use it do so in a responsible manner.

By Shawn Wayne


Photo: Pot protesters hit the streets for the Global Marijuana March 2017 in Toronto, Canada. Source:

02 August 2018 17:21