Medical marijuana has been legal in Georgia since 2015, but the state failed to create a framework for its 14,000 patients to legally obtain cannabis. The bill that legalized medical marijuana in 2015, HB 1, or more commonly referred to as “Haleigh’s Hope Act,” only legalized low-THC oil. The act defines low-THC oil as “an oil that contains not more than 5 percent by weight of tetrahydrocannabinol and an amount of cannabidiol equal to or greater than the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol.” In layman’s terms, the oil must have no more than 5% of THC AND at least an equal amount of CBD. While this legislation was a major step in the right direction, it offered no way for patients to legally obtain their medication. There was no proposed framework for growing and selling the low-THC oil and patients could not allowed to grow marijuana in their homes.   

Georgia passed HB 324 in April of 2019, which established a framework for licensing. The bill establishes a Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission and requires it to issue up to two Class 1 production licenses and four Class 2 production licenses. Class 1 production licenses limit the scale of production to 100,000 square feet of canopy space, have a $25,000 nonrefundable application fee, and an initial license fee of $200,000. Class 2 production licenses limit facilities to 50,000 square feet of canopy space, have a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, and an initial license fee of $100,000. At no time can a person hold an ownership in more than one production license at any one time, regardless of whether it is classified as Class 1 or Class 2. Production licenses may not be transferred for an initial five years and such changes will require approval from the Commission thereafter.  

The law also allows for pharmacies to be licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy and sell low-THC oil. The Commission is responsible for developing dispensing licenses for retail outlets. And while it remains unclear at this point how these features of Georgia’s medical market will be implemented from a regulatory standpoint, it is up to the State Board of Pharmacy and the Commission to jointly adopt rules that will govern the licensure and operation of both pharmacies and retail outlets, however each ends up being defined. As of yet, there are no official rules or dates for when dispensaries will be able to apply. 

Of additional note is the granting of licenses to two Georgia universities, the University of Georgia and Fort Valley University. With no research program instated currently, the possibilities that exist for collaboration between these universities and license holders who are producing cannabis at the threshold approved by Georgia’s legislature (up to 5% THC), are fascinating to say the least. While 5% may seem like an extremely low potency for cannabis compared to the percentages other states avail to patients (where 20-30% is common), most of the medical research done to date has had to utilize cannabis produced within the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s purview and oversight; at this point in time, NIDA’s only approved vendor in the research community’s supply chain is the University of Mississippi, whose cannabis’ potency hovers at the same level that Georgia’s medical market will require its supply chain to adhere to. 

NOTE: Pistil + Stigma is available for consulting services related to licensing in Georgia, advocacy, and compliance analysis.

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