Georgia patients who’ve been breaking the law will soon have the legal right to purchase cannabis, including oils, they’ve already had the right to possess.
This past Wednesday, Gov. Kemp signed legislation in an attempt to alleviate the situation. He called the new legislation a carefully crafted and balanced measure that will expand access for cannabis patients without creating a window to recreational use of cannabis.
“Instead of crossing state lines, breaking numerous laws in the process, these families can now stay in our great state,” said Kemp. “We are ensuring that these families can purchase what works for their loved ones without creating a slippery slope.”
The bill allows for the production of cannabis oil within the state and closes up the loophole created by a piece of legislation from 2015 which banned the buying, selling, and growing of cannabis while allowing specific patients to possess it legally.
Currently, state law in Georgia allows patients with one or more of 16 particular medical conditions to legally possess cannabis oil. So long as the oil contains 5 percent THC or less.
Cody Hall, the Gov.’s spokesman, said the new legislation would take effect as of the 1st of July this year.
In accordance with the new law, at least six growing licenses will be provided to private companies — four to small organizations and two to larger ones. Also, pharmacies will be given priority for distributing the oil while allowing a state commission to find and secure independent retail locations is such a need arises. The commission will also have the legal right to procure oil from other states where the substance is legal.
Also, up to two separate universities will be granted federal approval to research and produce cannabis oil.
Despite opposition from a large number of Sheriffs throughout the state, the Georgia legislature approved the bill regardless. According to the executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs Association, Terry Norris, law enforcement doesn’t support the idea of numerous private producers having the legal right to grow cannabis in order to manufacture oil.
“This bill is a decisive step toward recreational marijuana whether our leadership at the state level agrees or not,” said Norris. He went on to state that he’s concerned about the low level of regulation and possible over-production of cannabis. Norris also said that he hopes the state commission will be vigilant about these vital issues.
Micah Gravely, a Republican Rep. from Douglasville, who is the author of the bill, actively denies that the legislation will lead to recreational cannabis becoming legalized in the state.
That said, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have already launched extensive medical cannabis programs. Georgia is one of approximately a dozen of the states that allow citizens to possess a much lower potency level of cannabis oil.
“History has been made in Georgia,” Corey Lowe said. Lowe uses cannabis oil to treat her teenage daughters’ seizures and has done so since 2014.
“A lot of people said its the Bible Belt, we’re in the South. Everything was against us,” Lowe said. “I just thought that it wouldn’t be in my lifetime.”
Another parent that treats their young teenage daughters’ seizures with cannabis oil, Shannon Cloud, has advocated the legalization of the medicine for years. Her daughter suffers from Dravet syndrome, a lifelong form of epilepsy which is rather rare and impairs mental development.
In a recent interview, Cloud said that she and many other parents in similar situations are extremely satisfied with the new legislation knowing that they’ll have much easier access to the oil.
As of now, Georgia has around 8,400 people who’ve signed onto the program registry to receive the THC Oil Card.
“I think those numbers will jump up pretty quickly and more people will get help,” said Cloud. “A lot of people haven’t bothered to get the card because they don’t have a way to get cannabis.”