Better Late Than Never – 8 Years After Legalization and No Flower Allowed, Georgia Issues First MMJ Licenses

May 4, 2023 · Cannabis.net

In Georgia, patients on the medical cannabis registry who have been waiting for years may finally be able to receive their medicine legally. The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission recently issued five dispensing licenses to two companies, allowing them to sell low-THC oil to patients on the registry.

Trulieve Georgia has submitted applications for three facilities in Pooler, Marietta, and Macon. Meanwhile, Botanical Sciences LLC has submitted applications for facilities in Pooler and Marietta. The companies will be given 120 days to commence operations following the approval.

Sidney Johnson, the Commission Chair, stated that this development is a significant achievement for the commission and certified patients, who can obtain medical cannabis legally soon. He added that these patients have waited for a long time for this relief, considering that the initial law was passed in 2015.

Medical Cannabis Legalization in Georgia

Earlier this year, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously to approve inspection, testing, and sales rules. This is as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Low-THC cannabis oil has been legally permitted for medical use in Georgia since 2015. However, the launch of legal sales has been postponed for several years due to regulatory hurdles. Over 27,000 Georgians have registered to use the oil to treat various medical conditions.

It took four years to create the commission’s legislation and four more years to establish the regulatory framework. Now, Georgia is approaching the day when licensees can open their doors to serve patients.

According to the commission, most of the 27,000 patients on the list reside in metro Atlanta counties. Next are Fulton and Cobb counties, with about 2,000 and 3,000 patients each. Bibb County has between 500 and 750 patients, while Chatham County has 250 and 500 patients. Each company is eligible to apply for a maximum of six dispensing licenses.

According to Andrew Turnage, the commission’s Executive Director, as the licensees continue to establish more locations, even more patients are expected to be reached. Once these facilities commence operations, registered patients or their caregivers can visit the commission’s official website to confirm their licenses.

Only individuals with severe medical conditions such as end-stage cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease are eligible for registration on the medical cannabis registry. The program solely permits low-THC medical cannabis oil for medical purposes, and it does not allow for the recreational use of marijuana.

The approval of dispensing licenses is expected to bring relief to Georgia’s patients. However, some companies that had applied for licenses to cultivate cannabis in Georgia claimed that the selection process was unjust. The state also granted a separate tier of licenses to four smaller growers whose legal cases are ongoing.

Before selling low-THC cannabis oil can commence, the state must authorize the product’s packaging and labelling and conduct product testing. Some companies not granted licenses have taken legal action against the state. The oil, which can be utilized to treat seizures, Parkinson’s disease, or cancer, cannot contain more than 5% of THC, the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers contemplated passing a bill to open the selection process and increase the number of cannabis growers. However, the legislation did not pass. Medical marijuana programs are currently established in nearly 40 states.

Qualifying For Medical Cannabis in Georgia

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the law does not permit the possession or sale of marijuana in its leaf form. It only allows the sale of low-THC oil-infused food items or enables the consumption of low-THC oil through vaporization. Additionally, physicians are not licensed to prescribe cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

To obtain a registry card, you must fall under one of the following categories:

  • an adult with one or more of the medical conditions recognized by the law
  • a legal guardian of an adult with a qualifying medical condition
  • a legal guardian or parent of a minor with one or more qualifying medical conditions.

If more than one individual is responsible for caring for a child or adult, each person must submit a separate application for a card. Individuals who meet the low THC oil registry card requirements will need to have their physician complete and submit two forms – a waiver and a certification form – to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Once the forms are processed, eligible individuals will receive a notification when their registry card is printed and sent by mail. A fee of $25 is required for a new card, which must be paid by the individual picking up the card.

Qualifying Conditions

  • Cancer with end-stage diagnosis or treatment-related wasting illness, recalcitrant nausea, and vomiting.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with severe or end-stage diagnosis.
  • Seizure disorders related to epilepsy or trauma-related head injuries.
  • Multiple sclerosis with end-stage or severe diagnosis.
  • Crohn’s disease.
  • Mitochondrial disease.
  • Parkinson’s disease with end-stage or severe diagnosis.
  • Sickle cell disease with end-stage or severe diagnosis.
  • Tourette’s syndrome was diagnosed as severe.
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Epidermolysis bullosa.
  • Alzheimer’s disease with end-stage or severe diagnosis.
  • AIDS with end-stage or severe symptoms.
  • Peripheral neuropathy with end-stage or severe symptoms.
  • Patients enrolled in hospice programs as an inpatient or outpatient.
  • Intractable pain.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder from direct exposure to or witnessing trauma for patients (minimum age 18 years).

 

Conclusion

It has been a protracted and challenging process, but Georgia’s legalization of low-THC medicinal cannabis oil seems moving forward. Patients with crippling ailments may soon be able to legally get the relief they require by passing rules for testing, inspections, and sales. However, difficulties persist because the state legislature has not yet increased the number of growers, and some businesses denied licenses had filed lawsuits.

Although there were challenges, legalizing medical cannabis in Georgia is noteworthy progress in the fight for patients’ access to alternative treatments for their illnesses. It also indicates that medicinal cannabis is gaining recognition as a legitimate treatment choice for various medical conditions. (Full Story)

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