Georgia issues a few Medical Cannabis licenses at last, giving patients access ‘very soon’
After years of waiting, thousands of patients on Georgia's medical cannabis registry may soon be able to legally receive their medicine.
On Thursday, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission granted five dispensing licenses to two companies to begin selling low-THC oil to patients on the list.
Trulieve Georgia submitted three applications for facilities in Marietta, Pooler and Macon, and Botanical Sciences LLC submitted for facilities in Pooler and Marietta.
With the approval, the companies will have 120 days to open their doors.
"This is a milestone for the commission and certainly for the certified patients who will be able to legally obtain medical cannabis very soon," Commission Chairman Sidney Johnson said. "They've waited a long time for this relief. The initial law was passed in 2015. It took four years to get legislation creating the commission, and now, four years later, we have created the regulatory infrastructure and are not far off from the day when licensees will open their doors for patients."
Of the more than 27,000 patients on the list, metro Atlanta counties account for the largest portion. Cobb and Fulton counties are home to between 2,000 and 3,000 patients each, according to the commission. Bibb County has between 500 and 750 patients, and Chatham County has between 250 and 500.
Each company can apply for up to six dispensing licenses.
"We can anticipate that future locations will continue to reach even more patients as our licensees continue to open additional locations," said commission Executive Director Andrew Turnage.
Once the facilities open, registered patients or their caregivers can check the commission's website to verify their licenses. To get their medicine, they will need to bring their Department of Public Health-issued patient registry cards along with a photo ID.
Spots on the registry are only open to people with serious diagnoses, including end-stage cancer, Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease. The program does not allow for recreational forms of marijuana.
The state legislature legalized low-THC medical cannabis oil in 2015, but the law did not allow a way for patients to legally receive the drug.
The approval may mark the start of relief for Georgia's patients, but some of the other companies that applied for licenses to grow the product in Georgia say the process for deciding who would get the licenses was unfair. The state also granted a different tier of licenses to four smaller growers, whose court cases are continuing.
This year, lawmakers considered but did not pass legislation aimed at opening up that process and expanding the number of growers.