The marijuana war vs. the 'medical marijuana' excuse

Marijuana products confiscated by the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit. / Jessica Fairley

Marijuana laws have slowly evolved over the last ten years but as the laws change, officials say it's affecting the drug war in our area.

November 6th, 2012 marked a major milestone. Washington and Colorado led the nation in legalizing marijuana use but while smokers lit up the streets, law enforcement officials saw the cloud of smoke shadowing over the war against the drug.

Major Bill Berry, with the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, says they've had to intercept marijuana shipments from other parts of the nation where it is legal to sale.

He says incoming shipments are a growing issue law enforcement officials have to deal with when it comes to getting the drug off the streets.

"It's still illegal here, no matter what the other states do and no matter where you are in this country. It's still a federal law against marijuana," said Major Bill Berry, Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit.

But here in Georgia there is one group allowed, by law, to use the substance.

Dr. Chirag Jani, with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, says medical marijuana is legal in Georgia if it's prescribed by the doctor.

Medical marijuana, he says, can be used by cancer and HIV positive patients to alleviate nausea and improve their appetite. However medical marijuana should not to be confused with the street drug because it comes in the pill form.

Dr. Jani says it hasn't been proven whether or not street marijuana actually works for cancer patients.

"I would suspect it might help but then again you can't answer that unless you take the street marijuana and give to the patients which will never be done in this country," said Dr. Jani,Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital Chairman of the Department of Medicine.

Although lab studies haven't been conducted, officials say there may be instances of patients in fact using the street drug but then there are also the criminals who use medical marijuana as an excuse to escape the law.

Officials say one offender was caught in Dougherty County.

"We stopped him here and found inappropriate marijuana and they said it was medical marijuana and it was in a container that was labeled as medical marijuana but once you got to looking at it, it was a different grade or different quality," said Major Berry.

He says when other areas in the nation lax their drug laws, it paved the way to decriminalized it in our area.

"Many years ago, when I started out, if you had marijuana you went to jail. Now we can even actually issue you a ticket," Berry said.

One third of the American population, officials say, has used marijuana during a certain phase of life and it's become prevalent.

They say it's so prevalent that the drug dealers are cashing-in. Major Berry says the agency collects millions of dollars each year in drug money.

As the nation continues to light up and criminals try to use 'medical marijuana excuse', officials say it's going to be an ongoing war.

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