The state of Georgia has been slow-moving the past few years when it comes to easing up on cannabis policy to allow the patients who need it the most to use the medicine. Currently, Georgia residents can get a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis oil that legally allows them to use it to treat their condition – but the state provides no way to legally access the oil. A recent bill aims to change that and create regulated production and distribution throughout the state.
“It was hypocritical to me to pass bills to let this substance be available to the sickest folks that needed it, the worst, and yet we didn’t give them the access to get it,” said Regulated Industries Chairman Alan Powell, a Republican from Hartwell. “There’s nothing in this bill that will encourage recreational use.”
Currently, Georgia law only allows cannabis oil with up to 5 percent THC for patients with one of 16 different conditions. It only protects them from possessing up to 20 fluid ounces of the low-THC cannabis oil as well – and this new law won’t be changing that. The bill would not allow for smoking or vaping either, so concerns that allowing the cultivation and processing of medical marijuana products for these patients would lead to legal recreational use are unfounded.
“These aren’t people who are seeking to use illicit drugs. These are people who have tried and failed with opioids,” said the bill’s main supporter, Republican Rep. Micah Gravley of Douglasville. “These are people who simply want their children to experience less seizures, a loved one to be eased in the pain of cancer, maybe a relative, a mom or a dad with Parkinson’s, to enjoy a cup of coffee without shaking or not being able to hold a cup.”
House Bill 324 passed a House vote with 123 in favor and 40 against, which passes the bill over to the Senate for consideration. If passed, it would allow a total of 60 medical marijuana dispensaries, split between large growers and distributors, small-scale companies and even stand-alone retailers.
Initial licenses would cost $150,000 for large companies, $37,000 for smaller companies and $30,000 for retailers – with an annual renewal fee ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Licenses would be expected to be approved by January 1st, with products available to patients within 12 months. This means that if the bill passes, by the end of 2020 medical marijuana could finally be available to Georgia patients.