The Georgia legislature recently passed a bill that will finally close a loophole that has limited access to patients in need of medical marijuana. This is a huge victory for medical marijuana retailers, cultivators, and especially the patients. Georgia lawmakers passed the bill just before the legislature ended it’s session with the House voting 147-16, and the Senate voting 34-20,in favor of the reform.
The bill will now head to the Governor’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law. As of now Georgia law does allow patients to possess medical marijuana, but it’s illegal to purchase it since cultivation remains illegal. Federal law prevents medical marijuana patients from transporting it from out-of-state as they would be subject to charges of trafficking.
Once the new law takes effect it will establish two separate classes of cultivators. Class one is for large scale cultivators that would be allowed to grow medical marijuana, process flower into oil, and run up to five cannabis dispensaries. Class two businesses are smaller grow operations capped at 20,000 sq. ft. of cultivation and can open up to three dispensaries.
The state Department of Health will be in charge of oversight and issue licenses to qualifying cannabis businesses in Georgia. To qualify as a Class one business, applicants are expected to be able to invest a minimum of $10 million into the state. This will mean hundreds of new jobs for Georgia residents and increased access for those patients who benefit the most from medical marijuana.
There are some very specific regulations regarding compliance for medical marijuana retailers and cultivators. Video surveillance must be installed in all facilities recording 24/7, and all cultivation operations must be grown indoors. The Georgia Department of Health will establish an oversight board that will review applications and be responsible for issuing all Class 1 and Class 2 license. The DOH is expected to issue 10 licenses which could amount to as many as 50 medical marijuana retailers.
Governor Brian Kemp stated that, “Over the years, I’ve met with children who are battling chronic, debilitating diseases. I’ve heard from parents who are struggling with access and losing hope. This compromise legislation is carefully crafted to provide access to medical cannabis oil to those in need.” This is exactly what the new medical marijuana reform will remedy.
Dale Jackson, who treats his autistic child with medical cannabis oil rejoiced saying, "Now we’re going to have an avenue to go to, to have safe, reliable lab-tested oil." Licensing cultivators and retailers will help the medical cannabis industry flourish and make it easier for patients. Georgia will be the 34th state to establish a legal medical marijuana program.