The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put Georgia pharmacies on notice that they could be targets for federal enforcement if they engage in medical cannabis commerce. That could have a chilling effect on the nascent southern marijuana market.
On Nov. 27, the DEA’s Diversion Control Division sent a notice to many pharmacies across Georgia warning that “All DEA registrants, including DEA-registered pharmacies, are required to abide by all relevant federal laws and policies,” WXIA reported.
“Neither marijuana nor THC can lawfully be possessed, handled or dispensed by any DEA-registered pharmacy,” the notice reads, according to WXIA.
The move comes as the state has tried to stand up an MMJ industry with the help of regular pharmacies, a unique industry structure among states with functional medical cannabis markets. Georgia has a very restrictive MMJ program, and only low-THC oils are allowed to be produced and sold.
Apart from pharmacies – of which at least 120 had applied for permission to sell MMJ oils as of October – Georgia allows for two licensed vertically integrated medical cannabis companies, which are permitted a maximum of six dispensaries apiece.
The maximum potency under Georgia state law for any given MMJ product is 5% THC, far lower than potency levels in most mature cannabis markets. But the potential for hundreds of pharmacies carrying low-strength MMJ products could have made up for what would otherwise likely be a retail bottleneck.
Now, the viability of the Georgia market is much more in question, if the DEA chases most or all licensed pharmacies out of the cannabis trade.
The move is also the first time in years that the DEA has tried to stick its nose into any state medical marijuana program. The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment – first passed by Congress in 2014 – prohibits the Department of Justice, and therefore the DEA, from interfering with the operations of any state medical marijuana program. The same amendment was passed again into law a year ago as an annual budget rider, Marijuana Moment reported last December.
The amendment remains in effect until at least this coming February, the outlet reported this week.