Georgia now officially seeking cannabis growers
By Maggie Lee
Georgia’s now taking proposals from companies that are seeking state licenses to grow cannabis and manufacture a liquid medical marijuana from it.
“I think it’s really important for the industry, and for potential small business investors who are interested in this industry, to know that this is an economic development opportunity for Georgia, said Andrew Turnage, executive director of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission.
“There’s definitely a social equity component,” Turnage said. “We want to encourage minority-, women- and veteran- owned business to look at this commission as an opportunity that they want to invest in and grow a business in.”
State lawmakers, however, did not set up any special formal legal preference for minority-, women- or veteran-owned businesses. Some state legislators, mainly Democrat and Black legislators, pushed for some kind of preference, but those moves failed in the Republican-run legislature. Instead, the Commission will gather data from applicants for a disparity study to measure whether the state is exclusionary in its license-issuance.
Proposals are due by Dec. 28.
The state will issue a maximum of six grow licenses. The total cannabis cultivation space in the whole state will come to a maximum 400,000 square feet, all inside greenhouses. That’s about nine acres.
Up to four licenses will be issued for cultivation of up to 50,000 square feet. Up to two licenses will be issued for cultivation up to 100,000 square feet.
License-holders will be allowed to manufacture only liquid that’s low in THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
For about five years, Georgians who have a a medical cannabis card have been allowed to posses that liquid, but there’s never been any legal way to make it, buy it or sell it in this state.
And there’s still no plan for how this liquid will be distributed once it’s manufactured in Georgia.
State lawmakers wrote a lot of rules on growing, but left much of the rule-making on distribution and dispensaries to the Commission.
“There will be numerous proposals, hearings to establish the requirements for those dispensing licenses, and then we’ll we’ll begin another round of applications that are focused on that part of the licensing process to get this to the patients,” Turnage said.
There’s no deadline for a distribution system to be set up and Turnage said he’s not yet able to estimate when the rule-making process might be finished.
For years, Georgia’s medical marijuana lobbying has been led mainly by parents who want access to safe, lab-tested, regulated, calibrated cannabis treatments for their childrens’ suffering from disorders like very severe epilepsy.
And these parents want to be able to get it in some normal way, in some clean, well-lit place in consultation with medical professionals.
Opponents think that medical cannabis will lead to something they oppose: recreational marijuana.
In 15 states, recreational marijuana is already on the books, a number that counts the states where voters just approved it this month: Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota.
Federal law still prohibits marijuana, so even in states like Colorado, the 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.