Final Georgia medical marijuana licenses awarded after years of delay

4 companies approved to grow and sell low THC oil
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously to approve the state's final four production licenses on Wednesday.

Credit: File

Combined ShapeCaption
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously to approve the state's final four production licenses on Wednesday.

Credit: File

Credit: File

The Georgia panel that oversees medical marijuana voted unanimously Wednesday to award the state’s final four production licenses, expanding access for registered patients.

The decision increases the number of Georgia medical marijuana companies to six, each of which is allowed to operate five dispensaries. So far, nine dispensaries have opened this year across the state.

Licensing of these four companies had been on hold since July 2021 amid court battles and protests by several businesses that weren’t chosen. Those business alleged the state’s selection process was secretive and unfair.

But since recent court rulings against the losing bidders, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission moved forward with licensing on a provisional basis while other lawsuits remain pending. The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed lower court decisions last month that had dismissed the companies’ lawsuits.

“Implementing a new industry is not easy, but it’s worth it when the work improves the quality of life for thousands of patients in Georgia and for their loved ones,” said Sid Johnson, the commission’s chairman.

Lower court cases are still pending, and an attorney for one of the companies seeking a license said the commission should have waited until legal disputes were resolved.

Credit: Rebecca Breyer

Credit: Rebecca Breyer

“This is one more example of how this commission has acted completely outside and above the law,” said Kristen Goodman, who represents Symphony Medical. “I’ve never been so incensed about the operation of government.”

The licenses awarded Wednesday went to Fine Fettle, TheraTrue Georgia, Natures Georgia and Treevana Remedy. Each can operate greenhouses with 50,000 square feet of growing room.

The two companies currently operating in Georgia are licensed to cultivate medical marijuana on 100,000 square feet of indoor growing space. Those companies are Trulieve and Botanical Sciences.

Fine Fettle has already built a production facility in Macon, and the company said it plans to begin growing medication as soon as possible. Its first plants are expected to be ready for harvest in March.

Credit: JASON VORHEES / Macon Telegraph

Credit: JASON VORHEES / Macon Telegraph

“We’re ready to serve the needs of patients across Georgia who’ll experience a higher quality of life because this medication is available to them,” Fine Fettle Georgia CEO Jeremy Fort said. “We’re committed to the people of this state, and that’s why we moved ahead with building a best-in-its-class facility in Macon, where the community and its leaders have welcomed us.”

Medical marijuana, in the form of low THC cannabis oil, is available to Georgians with approval from a physician to treat severe illnesses including seizures, terminal cancers, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Low THC oil can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives users a high.

There were about 14,600 active patients and caregivers registered with the state as of Thursday, a number that’s expected to grow now that cannabis oil is more readily available.

Besides dispensaries, dozens of independent pharmacies plan to sell low THC oil from the state’s licensed production companies.

“It really represents a massive expansion of access to patients. That’s the bottom line,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director. “It’s been a longer, curvier road through the first few miles of the process, but the work we’ve done is starting to make a straight, smooth path going forward.”

Several companies that weren’t awarded licenses will continue to press their cases in court.

“The licenses awarded were provisional, not final,” said Jake Evans, an attorney for GA Bioscience Research, Aspire Medical Partners and Windflower Partners. “While it is our strong position that this award violates Georgia law in light of the pending lawsuits, it does not affect the relief that we seek in the courts.”

The Georgia General Assembly legalized possession and consumption of medical marijuana in 2015, but registered patients didn’t have any legal way to purchase it until dispensaries finally opened this spring. A state law passed in 2019 authorized six medical marijuana production licenses.

Dispensaries operated by Botanical Sciences and Trulieve are open in Chamblee, Evans, Macon, Marietta, Newnan, Pooler and Stockbridge.

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