After eight years, Georgia’s journey toward legalizing access to medical cannabis may soon come to fruition.
Two in-state producers, Botanical Sciences and Trulieve Georgia, are expected to have low-THC oil available for patients this summer, after the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission approved dispensing licenses Wednesday. Each may open up to six dispensary locations.
The commission recently released previously undisclosed data on the number of patients on Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry, which includes the number of patients registered in each county.
Four Atlanta counties have between 1,000 to 3,000 registered patients each, while only two of Georgia’s 159 counties have no patients registered. The two in-state producers will use this data to determine how best to serve patients in their chosen areas, the commission’s executive director told the according to Atlanta-based public radio station WABE.
“When they apply to the commission for their dispensing license, we’ve asked them to articulate how they’re going to serve the patient population in the area that they choose,” Andrew Turnage said.
“So, we really wanted them to get access to that data so that they can show us how their plan is going to reach patients in the area that they chose.”
Low-THC Oil Patient Registry Data as of 3-9-23
To be eligible for the registry, patients must have their diagnosis of a qualifying condition, such as severe ALS, autism, multiple sclerosis, or Parkinson’s, confirmed by a doctor.
The commission expects the number of patients on the registry to grow to around 100,000 within the next 12 to 18 months, up from its current level of 27,000.
Under Georgia’s limited medical cannabis program, only six companies are allowed to produce nonsmokable forms of low-THC marijuana, with a volume of 5% or less. Two of these companies, Botanical Sciences and Trulieve, are permitted to produce in 100,000-square-foot facilities, while the other four are restricted to half that size.
The state’s medical cannabis program has faced legal challenges and technical hiccups, and attempts to overhaul the system have been introduced in the legislature.
During the most recent session, legislation was proposed that would have ended the commission and moved the program under the Georgia Department of Agriculture, while also extending the number of production licenses. However, the legislation failed to pass, and the commission remains in place.
In 2015, Georgia legalized the possession of medical cannabis, but patients have been unable to legally purchase it until recently. The commission was created in 2019 to oversee the regulation of low-THC oil production within the state.
Final steps for medical marijuana to reach the market involve product testing and dispensary approval by the commission, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. The body recently approved SJ Labs and Analytics as the state’s first testing lab, which will examine cannabis oil for THC levels, pesticides, and ingredients.