Georgia will soon have a functioning medical marijuana program.
A board in charge of getting patients access to medical Cannabis took a major step toward 15,000 patients finally getting their medication, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted Saturday to pick six companies from 69 that had applied for licenses, reports the Associated Press. Each company will sell medical marijuana oil that containing no more than 5% THC. CBD will be the primary component of the oil.
Legislators voted the original bill into law back in 2015. In 2019, lawmakers enacted separate legislation, House Bill 324 (aka Georgia’s Hope Act), establishing a regulatory commission to oversee the eventual “production, manufacturing, and dispensing” of products possessing specified quantities of plant-derived THC and CBD.
The licensing process finally began a year and a half ago. Until now, patients have obtained low THC oil illegally, either through an informal network of patients or by traveling to other states to buy it.
About 200 people were on hand to watch the proceedings. Each of those six companies will be able to open five dispensaries, the AJC reported. That means up to 30 marijuana oil dispensaries could eventually open around Georgia.
State Caps Companies At 6
The state had capped the number of companies that can sell medical marijuana at six. The Legislature included that limit as part of a compromise. Lawmakers intendended to provide access to patients who legitimately needed Cannabis. But at the same time they did not want to permit marijuana to be illegally distributed.
Commission chairman Christopher Edwards, principal surgeon at Atlanta Neurological & Spine Institute, said he will ask the Georgia General Assembly to approve an additional two to four licenses.
The state first authorized medical marijuana oil in back in 2015. But there was still no legal way to buy it in the state. Patients have had to go to other states or through illegal channels to find medicine while the state set up its own program.
“It’s A Blessing”
“It’s a blessing. We’re near the end of the tunnel,” Jessica Reid of Atlanta told the newspaper. She said Cannabis oil is the only thing that she knows that can stop her 4-year-old son’s seizures.
Companies will be given a year after the contracts are signed to start operations. Prospective patients who suffer from certain conditions outlined in Georgia law would need to get approval from a doctor and apply through the Georgia Department of Public Health. Those authorized conditions include terminal cancers, Parkinson’s disease and seizures.
Officials made the Saturday announcement in Rock Spring in northwest Georgia. The commission had committed to traveling around the state as opposed to focusing just on the Atlanta area.
These Companies Won Licenses
Two companies won licenses to cultivate medical Cannabis oil on 100,000 square feet of indoor growing space. The first Trulieve GA Inc., an affiliate of Florida-based Trulieve Cannabis Corporation. The second was Botanical Sciences LLC, a business located in Glennville in South Georgia.
Georgia will license four companies to operate smaller production facilities with 50,000 square feet of growing room. Those four are FFD GA Holdings, TheraTrue Georgia LLC, Natures GA LLC and Treevana Remedy Inc.
The commission scored each business based on criteria set in a Georgia law creating the Cannabis oil production program in 2019. Businesses submitted plans including production, business operations, facilities and seed-to-sale tracking. The companies which scored highest won Georgia’s six licenses.
Commissioners said they hope companies will be able to quickly begin operations to provide low-THC oil for waiting patients. The board announced the winning companies in Rock Spring in northwest Georgia as part of a commitment to travel across the state and not just focus on metro Atlanta.
The next steps in the medical marijuana program will be finalizing contract awards for the six winning companies. The companies will then start operations in the coming months.