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Georgia’s Medical Cannabis Expansion Stalls

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill in April that established a regulated system for the production, processing and sale of medical cannabis oil, which was supposed to allow the state’s patients easier access to the oil, which they have legally been able to possess--but not purchase--since 2015.

Now, six months later, this medical cannabis expansion plan is on hold until Kemp and other top state officials appoint members to a commission to oversee the program.

House Bill 324, the legislation that legalized the production and sale of medical cannabis oil in the state, created the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, a seven-member group charged with overseeing the state’s medical cannabis program, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The commission is responsible for choosing which businesses can grow cannabis and developing licensing requirements for retailers, the news outlet reported.

Aides to Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston have not indicated why no members have been appointed to the commission, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, although the news outlet pointed out that the regulatory body is a start-up and therefore may take more time to get up and running than boards and agencies in other states that may have had built-in procedures and existing members. State officials have received a flood of applications for the seven spots on the commission, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, and are considering more than 50 candidates.

H.B. 324 established strict requirements for appointments to the commission, according to the news outlet, including a rule that commissioners cannot have any ownership stake or other financial interest in any cannabis company in the state during their term and five years after it ends.

When the commission does get up and running, it will license up to six private companies and two universities to grow cannabis and process it into low-THC medical cannabis oil (which must contain less than 5-percent THC). The oil will then be sold to the state’s registered patients through state-approved dispensaries or pharmacies.

When the law passed in April, advocates celebrated the fact that Georgia’s patients would finally be able to obtain medical cannabis oil within the state.

“They don’t have to worry about where it’s going to come from,” Chris Lindsey, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Cannabis Business Times when Kemp signed H.B. 324 into law. “They don’t have to rely on people who are breaking the law to get it to them, and that’s a pretty big deal."

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