Medical marijuana rules approved in a ‘milestone’ for sales in Georgia

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Georgia cannabis commission votes unanimously to move forward

Medical marijuana sales in Georgia moved a step closer toward becoming reality Wednesday with the approval of rules for testing, inspections and distribution.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously to pass the rules, one of the last hurdles before registered patients would finally have a legal way to purchase the medicine that state law has already allowed them to use since 2015.

Dispensaries could open as soon as this spring in planned locations including Marietta, Newnan, Macon and Pooler.

“It is a milestone in reaching the ultimate goal of providing quality products to our patients across this great state of Georgia who have waited a long time to get the medical relief they need,” said Sid Johnson, the commission’s chairman. “We’re very excited about getting these rules passed.”

Two companies were issued state production licenses in September to grow medical marijuana in greenhouses in Adel and Glennville, but products will have to go through approvals for packaging, labeling and testing before they can go on sale.

In addition, lawsuits are pending from several companies that sought state licenses but weren’t chosen by the commission.

“It’s much further down the road than it’s ever been. It’s an exciting place to be,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director.

Low THC oil is allowed for registered patients suffering from several approved illnesses including severe seizures, Parkinson’s disease and terminal cancers. Over 25,000 patients and 18,000 caregivers are currently registered with the state to use the product, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives users a high.

Each of the two licensed marijuana companies, Trulieve and Botanical Sciences, will be allowed to open up to six dispensaries across Georgia, according to a state law passed in 2019. Nearly 40 states already have medical marijuana programs.

Sales would be allowed only to patients or caregivers with a valid Low-THC Oil Patient Registry card, and the rules prohibit marketing to children through cartoons, candies or depictions of people or animals.

The commission didn’t make any changes to the rules after several people provided public comments this month.

Representatives for the marijuana production companies asked for the rules to be approved without any further delays, but members of the advocacy group Georgians for Responsible Marijuana Policy had requested additional warning labels, more detailed ingredient lists, and a 3,000-foot minimum distance between dispensaries and schools. The approved rules call for a 1,000-foot buffer zone.