The medical marijuana business landscape in Georgia is in the midst of a major transformation, from a restrictive market that only allowed 12 dispensaries and two producers into a much broader market that could include hundreds of independent pharmacies.
The Georgia market launched in April, with Florida-based Trulieve and Georgia-based Botanical Sciences as the only providers. The operators are allowed up to six dispensaries apiece, with only seven of which open to date, according to the Associated Press.
The two companies were also restricted under Georgia state law to the production and sale of THC oil no stronger than 5% THC.
But regulators moved this year to broaden patient access by letting pharmacies into the cannabis trade, and the state Board of Pharmacy last week began accepting applications from pharmacies that want to sell MMJ products. So far 120 have applied, the Associated Press reported.
Estimates on how many pharmacies there are in Georgia varies from 400 to 1,000, based on media reports. Regardless, it’s new and major competition for the existing dispensaries, which may lose out on the retail end but may be able to make up the shortfall on the production end as the only two legal cannabis producers in the state.
Botanical Sciences CEO Gary Long expressed happiness to the AP that pharmacies were broadening points of sale for low-THC oils.
“Pharmacists have been fielding questions from patients for years without ever having the ability to do anything about it,” Long told the AP. “Finally, they have the ability not just to give people advice but provide them with the therapies they’ve been seeking.”
It will be a “few weeks” before medical cannabis is actually sold in pharmacies, according to the AP, but it will likely be available in major chains such as CVS and Walgreens, News Nation reported.
The prospective customer pool, however, remains tiny. Only about 14,000 MMJ patients have thus far registered with the state in order to purchase low-THC oil from dispensaries or pharmacies, the AP reported, far below what some officials had predicted of a 50,000-patient pool. Patients must have a specific medical qualifying condition, and a doctor’s recommendation, in order to purchase THC oil in Georgia.
If neighboring Florida legalizes adult-use marijuana at the ballot in 2024, however, many Georgia residents may simply drive south for full-strength cannabis products, a common trend in many other states with adult-use marijuana markets that border prohibition states.