Georgia medical marijuana commission opens applications for production

Georgia is accepting applications from businesses to manufacture medical marijuana in the state, getting one step closer to allowing those in need of the cannabis oil to legally obtain it — five years after the state Legislature legalized the treatment.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission unanimously approved the process that would allow the state’s nearly 14,000 registered patients to obtain Georgia oil for treatment. The proposal can be found on the group’s website. Manufacturers have until have until 2 p.m. Dec. 28 to apply.

“I do think this is the first step in a really great economic development opportunity with an emphasis on Georgia business and small business development,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director. “The commission works very hard to keep this process moving forward every single day.”

The commission hopes to issue licenses by March. Manufacturers say it could take anywhere from six months to a year before the oil is available for patients.

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.

That law tasked the commission, which began meeting about a year ago, with creating a distribution network, establishing testing and oversight rules, and issuing licenses for businesses to sell the oil.

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.

The commission will award licenses to two 100,000-square-foot facilities and four 50,000-square foot facilities.

Applicants will have to provide 24-7 security at its facility, establish electronic video monitoring and use keycards that log employee and visitor access. There must be “seed-to-sale” tracking to account for the product’s whereabouts throughout production.

Law enforcement also will be allowed to inspect the facility on demand.

The commission will next establish regulations for the state to grant licenses to oil dispensaries.

Commission Chairman Dr. Christopher Edwards said it was important the application process get underway.

“We just want to keep the patients in the forefront,” Edwards said. “And the longer this process goes on, the longer the time it takes for patients to receive help.”