Public weighs in on medical marijuana rules before Georgia sales begin

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

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

Medical marijuana commission plans a vote next week

GAINESVILLE — Medical marijuana companies urged Georgia regulators Wednesday to quickly approve rules for production and distribution to registered patients, while skeptics of the drug asked for stronger protections against illegal use.

The comments to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission came during a meeting at Lanier Technical College in Gainesville to hear from the public before regulations are approved as soon as next week, a key step before dispensaries can open for the first time in Georgia.

While state law has allowed registered patients to use low THC oil since 2015, they still don’t have any legal way to buy it.

If the commission approves regulations, two companies awarded licenses to produce low THC oil could begin selling it to patients at stores as soon as this spring.

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

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

“No time should be wasted in approving these rules so that patients in need can have high-quality low THC cannabis medicine,” said Lisa Pinkney, president of Trulieve Georgia, one of two companies that have been awarded medical marijuana production licenses. “It would be detrimental to patients to further delay the program further with regulatory nitpicking.”

Three members of Georgians for Responsible Marijuana Policy, an advocacy group, said the commission should ensure that products include stronger warning labels and ingredient lists.

While Georgia law limits medical marijuana to no more than 5% THC, the compound that gives users a high, Gregg Raduka said he’s concerned that children would try higher potency marijuana products once medicinal use is commonplace.

ExploreFor Georgia patients, medical marijuana is legal but not for sale

“When these products get legalized, youths do tend to use them,” said Raduka, a board member for the group. “There are frequently negative unintended side effects of THC products.”

If approved, medical marijuana regulations would help clear the way for dispensaries to serve about 25,000 patients and 18,000 caregivers. The commission plans to vote on the rules Jan. 25.

Low THC oil is allowed for registered patients suffering from several approved illnesses including severe seizures, Parkinson’s disease and terminal cancers.

The proposed rules cover quality control, product tracking, labeling, dispensing locations and enforcement. Each licensed production company is allowed to open up to five dispensaries.

“They adequately protect the patient public while imposing no onerous compliance burdens,” said Tyler Anthony, general counsel for Botanical Sciences, the other company awarded a production license. “We look forward to serving Georgians who have been waiting to attain this much-needed medicine.”

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 proposed rules are available for public review on the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission’s website at gmcc.ga.gov.