Director hired to run Georgia’s new medical marijuana program

Georgia’s medical marijuana board has hired its first executive director, Andrew Turnage, a government administrator with experience in licensing.

Turnage will be responsible for the start-up of a program to distribute cannabis oil to patients who are already allowed to use the drug but have no legal way to buy it.

“We have one goal, and that’s to get oil for families in need,” Turnage said in a statement. “We have families in Georgia that have struggled for years to get this basic need, low-THC oil, and our task will be to ensure that they receive it.”

Turnage previously worked as executive director for the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers until 2017. He's currently the intake director for the Georgia secretary of state's office.

Turnage is also a former deputy sheriff in Hall County. He donated $1,950 to Republican Brian Kemp in 2017 and 2018 when he was running for governor, according to campaign finance records.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission selected Turnage on Wednesday from four candidates vetted by the Goodwin Group, a search firm. The job's salary range is $90,000 to $95,000.

Patients have been allowed to use medical marijuana in Georgia since 2015, but it was only last year that the General Assembly passed a bill permitting its production and sale.

Under the law, six companies will be licensed to cultivate medical marijuana, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives marijuana users a high.

Turnage will manage the cannabis oil licensing process, the creation of a distribution network, and testing and oversight rules.

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