Georgia’s medicinal cannabis program is about to undergo a significant expansion after the state’s regulatory board “chose six companies Saturday that will be allowed to sell the drug, a decision that will finally give registered patients a legal way to obtain medication first approved six years ago,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The decision means that thousands of patients in the Peach State will now finally be able to obtain medical marijuana oil, which has long been unavailable under the state’s medical marijuana law. This will be a significant and positive change for a state that has gone too long without a true medical program.
The move was greenlit by Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, which “voted unanimously to select the six companies from 69 that had applied for licenses,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “State law limits the number of medical marijuana producers to six. Each licensee will be authorized to open five dispensaries,” the newspaper reported.
Those businesses are now permitted to sell medical marijuana oil, so long as it contains no more than five percent THC.
For Georgia’s medical cannabis patients who prefer oil consumption, it has been a long time coming. In 2019, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed Georgia’s Hope Act, or HB 324, into law.
The legislation cleared the way for “the production, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil in [the] state,” and provided for “an exception to possession of certain quantities of low THC oil.”
Georgia’s Program Has Been Lagging
Overall, implementation of Georgia’s medical marijuana law has continued to lag. As the Marijuana Policy Project noted, the “Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission accepted applications for producers in late 2020,” but did not issue the six licenses until Saturday.
The commission chose the six companies before a “packed room of about 200 people,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The newspaper said that those six companies “will have one year to begin operations after contracts are signed following potential protests from losing bidders, providing for patients suffering from conditions including seizures, terminal cancers and Parkinson’s disease.” Two companies “won licenses to cultivate medical marijuana oil on 100,000 square feet of indoor growing space,” while the other four “will be licensed to operate smaller production facilities with 50,000 square feet of growing room.”
Georgia lawmakers first passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in 2015, but the rollout has come at a glacial pace. By late 2019, the state still hadn’t appointed any members to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that, before now, “patients have obtained low THC oil illegally, either through an informal network of patients or by traveling to other states to buy it.”
The law passed six years ago allows “patients to register to possess up to 20 fluid ounces of medical cannabis oil with up to 5 percent THC,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project. The Marijuana Policy Project has expressed disappointment at the five percent cap, saying that Georgia’s statute “does not meet MPP’s definition of an effective medical cannabis law.”
Around 15,000 patients have signed up for the medical marijuana program in the state, and on the heels of this weekend’s vote, they are one step closer to finally getting their hands on the medicine. Sales for medical marijuana have been expected to begin sometime this year.
Georgia officials have continued to expand the program even during the slow implementation period. In May, Kemp signed a bill into law that will allow as many as 30 state-licensed medical cannabis businesses to to sell high CBD-cannabis.
But the unanimous vote by the commission over the weekend means that the state will, at long last, “have a functioning marijuana program,” as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put it.