New Legislation in Georgia Aims to Jumpstart State’s Medical Cannabis Program
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New Legislation in Georgia Aims to Jumpstart State’s Medical Cannabis Program

House Bill 1400 would grant licenses to 16 rejected applicants who have since held up the rollout of the program with litigation.

February 22, 2022

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law to establish a regulated medical cannabis program in 2019, but three years later, the state’s registered patients are still waiting for legal access to the low-THC oil they were promised.

State Rep. Alan Powell’s (R-Hartwell) House Bill 1400 could help jumpstart the state’s medical cannabis program and get the oil, which can contain no more than 5% THC, into the hands of patients, according to a WABE report.

After years of regulatory limbo that allowed registered patients in Georgia to possess—but not purchase—the low-THC cannabis oil, the Legislature passed House Bill 324 in the spring of 2019 to legalize the production and sale of the oil in the state.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission then licensed six companies in July 2021 to produce and sell the oil to the state’s patient base, but the licensing process was challenged by 16 unsuccessful applicants.

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Powell’s H.B. 1400 would allow state regulators to grant licenses to these 16 companies, rather than waiting for the litigation to make its way through the legal system.

“We would have to take care of the 16 and we have them give a license of some sort. Just one. Not multiple,” Powell told WABE. “If that is the will of the General Assembly to do that, that speeds up and gets it out of the court system and moves it forward.”

During a January meeting, Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission Executive Director Andrew Turnage said the commission’s legislative agenda would include increasing the number of licenses, WABE reported.

If approved, Powell’s legislation would bring the total number of medical cannabis licenses in the state to 22, and he anticipates that the more than 23,000 Georgians on the Georgia Department of Health’s low-THC oil registry could then access the oil by the end of the year, according to the news outlet.

“The General Assembly passed the medical cannabis law three years ago,” Powell told WABE. “It was passed overwhelmingly. The framework was set up. … Three [years] later and it’s still no further.”

In addition to issuing the additional licenses, H.B. 1400 would also eliminate the Medical Cannabis Commission Oversight Committee, which includes appointees from Georgia’s House speaker and lieutenant governor, the news outlet reported.

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In its place, a new committee would be established with members of the Legislature.

H.B. 1400 has been assigned to the House Regulated Industries Committee, according to WABE.