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Ga. medical marijuana board meets amid intense industry interest

Georgia's law allows licensed, limited medical cannabis cultivation, and indoors only. (Photo: M. Martin Vicente/CC BY 2.0

By Maggie Lee

Georgia hasn’t even finished the applications for up to six medical cannabis grow licenses — but at least 50 companies are looking at the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission with great interest.

“During these 100 days, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with a little over 50 companies in the industry that are interested in submitting proposals for either a Class 1 or Class 2 [production] license,” said Andrew Turnage, executive director of the commission, at a Tuesday evening meeting.

In that short meeting, the appointed commissioners approved a necessary administrative step: to send a license application design and draft to the state’s procurement agency for its review.

“While it looks like a formality, it’s an important step forward,” Turnage told SaportaReport after the meeting.

It’s another step toward getting seeds into greenhouses and a liquid to Georgians who are looking for relief.

But it’s still not clear when those seeds will get planted, much less when people will be able to figure out their closest dispensary.

The Georgia Department of Administrative Services couldn’t immediately be reached for comment via email or phone about when it might finish its review of the production license application process. This story will be updated if any comment arrives.

Georgians who have a medical cannabis card are allowed under state law to posses a liquid made from cannabis, which is used to treat the symptoms of several diagnoses. But there’s no legal way to buy or make the liquid here.

Georgia law lays out some pretty detailed requirements for any company that seeks a license to grow medical marijuana and manufacture a liquid from it.

Georgia plans to issue up to two “Class I” licenses, each of which entitles the holder to cultivate medical cannabis in a maximum of 100,000 square feet of indoor space.

It also plans to issue up to four “Class II” licenses for smaller businesses that could each cultivate up to 50,000 square feet of indoor grow space.

And each class of license comes with requirements for security plans, financial backing and other ownership rules.

And that’s just cultivation and manufacture. The state also needs to set up a process for licenses to distribute the Georgia-legal form of medical cannabis.

Federal law still prohibits marijuana, so even in states like Colorado, the entire industry works in a legal gray area that makes shipping across state lines too risky for companies. The federal prohibition also stunts research into medical cannabis and also leaves some medical professionals wary about working with it.

For years, Georgia’s medical marijuana lobbying has been led mainly by parents of suffering children who want access to safe, lab-tested, regulated, calibrated cannabis treatments. And they want to be able to get it in some normal way, in some clean, well-lit place in consultation with medical professionals.

And opposition has come from those who fear medical cannabis opens the door to the recreational kind; or that the industry will be hard to keep in check.

But no Georgia patient or caregiver wants what they’re stuck with now: iffy cross-state-border sales, asking around Facebook networks, transacting business in gas station parking lots or looking for a dealer they hope they can trust.

Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.


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