The long-delayed medical cannabis program may finally be coming together in Georgia, with state regulators reportedly expected to vote on rules over the production and sale of the product.
Capitol Beat News Service reports that the “Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is expected to vote Wednesday on rules governing all aspects of the program from growing the leaf crop in greenhouses under close supervision to manufacturing low-THC cannabis oil to treat patients suffering from a variety of diseases to selling the product at a network of dispensaries across the state.”
The Medical Cannabis Commission held a meeting last week at Lanier Technical College in Gainesville, where officials heard from representatives from medical cannabis companies who “urged Georgia regulators to quickly approve rules for production and distribution of the drug to registered patients while skeptics of the drug asked for stronger protections against illegal use,” Georgia public radio station WUGA reported.
The anticipated action this week by the Medical Cannabis Commission means that qualifying patients in Georgia may soon have access to the treatment years after it was made legal.
State lawmakers in 2015 passed the Haleigh’s Hope Act, which legalized the prescription of cannabis oil containing no more than 5% THC for patients with the following qualifying conditions (as listed on the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission’s official website): “Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness or recalcitrant nausea and vomiting; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries; Multiple sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Crohn’s disease; Mitochondrial disease; Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; Tourette’s syndrome, when such syndrome is diagnosed as severe; Autism spectrum disorder, when (a) patient is 18 years of age or more, or (b) patient is less than 18 years of age and diagnosed with severe autism; Epidermolysis bullosa; Alzheimer’s disease, when such disease is severe or end stage; AIDS when such syndrome is severe or end stage; Peripheral neuropathy, when symptoms are severe or end stage; Patient is in hospice program, either as inpatient or outpatient; Intractable pain; [and] Post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from direct exposure to or witnessing of a trauma for a patient who is at least 18 years of age.”
The law was given teeth in 2019, when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that created the Medical Cannabis Commission and established a regulatory framework for the program.
Since then, the number of registered patients who are eligible to receive the cannabis oil has grown to more than 25,000, according to the Capitol Beat News Service.
But none of those patients are able to legally purchase the oil in Georgia.
Should the Medical Cannabis Commission approve the regulations that are up for a vote this week, “two companies awarded licenses to produce low THC oil could begin selling it to patients as soon as this spring,” according to WUGA.
Capitol Beat News Service reports that the Medical Cannabis Commission is “requesting a $125,000 increase on top of its current $908,000 fiscal 2023 budget to move the program forward,” an amount that “includes licensing the five dispensaries the original 2019 law authorized for each production licensee in addition to a sixth dispensary each will be permitted to open now that the registry of Georgia patients eligible to receive the oil has climbed above 25,000.”