More companies will be able to grow medical cannabis in Georgia after a commission approved licenses for new facilities. Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission unanimously granted provisional licenses to four more companies to produce low-THC oil to help Georgians with a list of severe ailments.
The licenses will go to Fine Fettle GA, TheraTrue, Nature’s GA and Treevana Wellness. The companies will have access to Class 2 licenses, allowing them to grow cannabis in 50,000 square feet of indoor facilities only for producing low-THC oil. The state previously granted licenses to two companies, Trulieve and Botanical Sciences, for Class 1 licenses, allowing for twice as much cultivation space. By law, the products can only contain a very small amount of THC, the chemical that gets marijuana users high.
The new licenses come as years-long court challenges over the selection process continue, said Commission Chair Sid Johnson.
“The recent resolution of several court cases including rulings by the court of appeals has enabled us, the commission, to move forward with today’s actions,” he said. “Out of respect for the judicial process that is still going on, we have chosen to make provisional contract awards.”
Johnson said the commission has the authority to make provisional awards at its discretion, noting that none of the applicants challenged that authority through the contentious process.
“The issuance of these provisional contract awards for class two productions licensure is not only consistent with the terms of the (request for proposal) and the purpose of the Hope Act, it is necessary,” he said. “We look forward to working with our Class 2 production licensees and building strong partnerships with them as we have done with our Class 1 production licensees.”
In a statement, Fine Fettle CEO Jeremy Fort said his company plans to harvest its first plants from its Macon-area facility by March and open up shop in Athens, Decatur, Evans, Macon, Peachtree Corners and Smyrna by the spring.
“We’re ready to serve the needs of patients across Georgia who’ll experience a higher quality of life because this medication is available to them,” he said. “We’re committed to the people of this state, and that’s why we moved ahead with building a best-in-its-class facility in Macon, where the community and its leaders have welcomed us.”
Since the state first approved licenses this spring, dispensaries have opened up in or near major metro areas: Atlanta, Marietta, Newnan, Stockbridge, Macon, Evans and Savannah. In addition, Georgia is set to be the first state to allow patients to buy low-THC products at pharmacies.
Whether from a dispensary or a pharmacy, patients must be approved by a doctor to get the products. Right now there are just over 13,400 patients on the list. Intractable pain and post-traumatic stress patients make up more than 70% of those on the list, according to the state Department of Public Health, with cancer, peripheral neuropathy, and multiple sclerosis the next most common diagnoses.
Georgia passed its initial medical marijuana bill in 2015, but it took years of continued legislative action and lawsuits to actually get the medicine in their hands, and for some, the rollout was not as smooth as expected.
In brief remarks after the vote, Commission Executive Director Andrew Turnage thanked patients for their endurance.
“I want to say thank you to the patients,” he said. “They have been the spearhead for this from day one. Everything that this commission has done is for you, the patients. And I just want to say, for all the sacrifices and dangers and losses that patients have endured to get through this process, we really appreciate that. Everything that has happened at this commission has been focused on access for patients. And there’s more, there’s more battles to come. There are more challenges to face. But together, we’ve arrived at this day, and it started with the very hard work of the patients.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the most common conditions for which Georgians have medical cannabis cards. It was corrected Nov. 21 at noon after Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam reported the department had inadvertently sent the Georgia Recorder erroneous information. The top five most common conditions listed on Georgia medical cannabis cards are intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, peripheral neuropathy and multiple sclerosis.
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