Georgia medical marijuana licenses finally awarded; growing to begin

2 companies picked to produce low THC oil after long wait

A final vote awarded Georgia medical marijuana production licenses to two companies Wednesday, a major step toward ending a seven-year delay that left registered patients with no way to legally buy the drug that they’re allowed to consume.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission unanimously approved licenses for Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia Inc., each of which will be authorized to grow, manufacture and sell marijuana oil, which can have no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives users a high.

State law requires the companies to begin production within a year, breaking an impasse for 24,400 patients and 17,700 caregivers since Georgia authorized medical marijuana in 2015. Patients who receive a doctor’s approval are allowed to use the medicine to treat illnesses including severe seizures, Parkinson’s disease and terminal cancers.

“It’s good news to our certified patients in Georgia, and we look forward to ensuring that the product comes to market as quickly and as safely as possible,” said Sid Johnson, the commission’s chairman.

Trulieve plans to begin operations as soon as possible after it opens an indoor cultivation and processing facility in Adel in South Georgia.

“We look forward to educating the Georgia market on the numerous health and wellness benefits of cannabis, as well as providing patients statewide access to the medical cannabis they have been seeking,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said.

The commission originally intended to award six production licenses last year, but contracts were never finalized because of protests filed by 15 losing companies out of the 69 that had applied.

The protesting companies alleged that the commission’s selection process for the new government-regulated industry was marred by inconsistent scoring in the competitive bidding process, unclear criteria and arbitrary awards.

The complaints put the medical marijuana program on hold for nearly a year until Gov. Brian Kemp appropriated $150,000 in emergency funds in April for an administrative law judge to quickly hold hearings and resolve the protests.

The judge, Stephanie Howells, rejected all the protests in decisions finalized Friday. But the commission only awarded two of the state’s six licenses Wednesday because of pending litigation over the process, Johnson said. He said he couldn’t provide further information.

ExploreGeorgia medical marijuana program stalled by protests, bureaucracy

The two winning companies will be able to cultivate medical marijuana oil on 100,000 square feet of indoor growing space.

Each company will be authorized to open five dispensaries, which will serve only registered patients.

Trulieve is a large company that already does business in 11 states. Botanical Sciences is a new company that plans to operate in Glennville, a small city in southeast Georgia.

“It’s a brand-new industry in our state, and we look forward to working with companies that provide the medicine for those patients,” said Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director.

The Georgia General Assembly approved production of low THC oil three years ago, but the commission struggled to complete the licensing process. A bill that would have required medical marijuana licenses to be issued by early June failed to pass in the closing hours of this year’s legislative session.

It’s unclear when the four remaining medical marijuana licenses could be issued to the companies selected by the commission and affirmed by the administrative law judge. Those licenses are designated for smaller growing facilities, on 50,000 square feet of growing space.

Those four companies that haven’t yet been awarded licenses are FFD GA Holdings, TheraTrue Georgia LLC, Natures GA LLC and Treevana Remedy Inc.