On September 21st, 2022, state regulators awarded licenses to two companies to grow, market and distribute medical marijuana in dispensaries within Georgia. Medical marijuana will be produced only in oil form, and cannot have a THC potency over 5 percent. The state commission responsible for awarding licenses says that it will help to lower the addiction rates to narcotic pain-killing drugs like Oxycontin. “Everyone I know is aware of the struggle with narcotics and substance abuse in our country. And this has been proven as an effective alternative,” said Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission Executive Director Andrew Turnage.
Medical marijuana has been proven to be effective in treating a wide variety of medical conditions and illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, seizures, severe and chronic pain, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms, nausea and vomiting from cancer treatments – as well as opioid addiction and the side effects of recovery. Medical marijuana has been allowed in Georgia since the enactment of “Haleigh’s Hope Act” on April 16th, 2015, however, the state government failed to grant licenses, leaving patients who would have otherwise benefitted from the product in limbo.
In 2021, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission finally announced six winners of licenses out of sixty-nine applicants, immediately receiving blowback from rejected applicants who sought legal arbitration. In April of this year, lawmakers failed to find a compromise on HB 1425, which was intended to allow businesses to start growing and selling cannabis oil to registered patients as soon as June. The bill fell short of one vote from Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, who felt it would be counterproductive to pass while there are still pending lawsuits from businesses who lost the chance of winning a license. Thus the estimated 22,000 Georgia patients in need would remain in uncertainty.
The two companies who have only now received their licenses are Trulieve, a cannabis company based in Florida, and Botanical Sciences LLC, which had former HHS Secretary and former Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Price on its board of directors when it applied for a license. Critics note Botanical Sciences LLC,despite not having a legitimate website, which still remains under construction at the time of writing this article, was able to jump to the head of the line because of Price’s political clout. Other critics are quick to point out that despite Georgia’s medical marijuana law having a social equity clause that was intended to give minority-owned businesses priority – especially to black-owned businesses and community members who have been unfairly targeted by the war on drugs – these two companies are both owned by white Americans: Robin Fowler and Kim Rivers. Advocates, while celebrating these first steps, are equally calling on lawmakers to increase the number of licenses awarded, which will not likely happen until after midterm elections in 2023 and beyond.
To currently qualify for a medical marijuana card, patients must receive a doctor’s prescription and submit the appropriate paperwork to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The cost of the card is $25, and the cost of medical marijuana oil is predicted to cost somewhere between $100 to $300 per month for a single patient.