At last count, there are 44 states with medical cannabis systems in place. Georgia was one of the earlier adopting states, joining those ranks all the way back in 2015. To say that they have had ample time and evidence in front of them to cherry-pick the best aspects from the other existing medical programs and set up an ideal system would be a huge understatement. So how did we end up here?
Patients and caregivers have had to deal with products being legal to use but inaccessible for purchase for almost eight years, instead relying on friends/family and the underground network of legacy providers to acquire safe, effective medicine.
Now they have to navigate a program that restricts THC levels to 5% or less when medical patients typically need higher potency and higher volume products. The state has also handed the first retail licenses over to two large MSOs, Botanical Sciences, and Trulieve.
Both are publicly traded companies with boards and shareholders to answer to, so patients having affordable access to quality medicine isn’t usually their top priority. So while the ability to walk into a medical dispensary and buy safe, tested products is a huge step forward for patients and caregivers, Georgia has a long way to go before this program can be considered successful.
Georgia has been a slow-moving state in terms of cannabis regulation. The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission was formed in 2015, and the first five dispensary licenses were issued in March 2021, years behind schedule.
Nevertheless, there have been recent developments with regard to medical marijuana laws and regulations that are important for anyone interested in being involved in the industry. According to Georgia law, up to five initial dispensing licenses can be issued to each production licensee, depending on the number of registered patients.
Additionally, an extra license can be granted for every additional 10,000 patients added. To open their doors, dispensaries must pass a pre-operational inspection within 120 days of their license being issued.
Regarding what products are available in Georgia, medical marijuana can be sold as cannabis oil packaged as liquid tinctures, topical creams, or capsules.
Unfortunately, smokable products are prohibited in Georgia, and all products must contain less than 5% THC. This is significantly lower than in other states that allow for higher amounts of THC.
Lawmakers claim the reason for setting the limit so low is due to the fact that research surrounding medical cannabis use is still “relatively limited.” As a result, lawmakers wanted to be cautious when introducing cannabis products into the market and err on the side of caution.
Unfortunately, this poses a problem for those with larger medical issues who may need more potent products containing higher levels of THC to relieve their symptoms.
The state has licensed Trulieve and Botanical Sciences to grow marijuana and process it for use. Trulieve Georgia is growing marijuana in Adel, while Botanical Sciences is growing it in Glennville. Botanical Sciences plans to open its first dispensary next month in Savannah.
Several companies that were denied licenses have sued. Four additional production licenses are tied up in litigation.
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