Georgia on verge of legalizing medical marijuana

by Kim Boateng Posted on April 3rd, 2019

A spokesperson for Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said Wednesday that he will sign a bill into law legalizing medical marijuana in Georgia.

The General Assembly approved the legislation, finding that thousands of Georgians have serious medical conditions that can be improved by the medically approved use of cannabis. Low THC oil, which can only be derived from the cannabis plant, can offer significant medical benefits to patients. A carefully constructed system of in-state cultivation to benefit only those patients authorized by Georgia law and approved by their physician would benefit patients within the State of Georgia.

The new bill, known as the “Georgia’s Hope Act,” would allow for the “production, manufacturing, and dispensing” as well as the possession of low-THC cannabis oil in Georgia. It would also set up a state commission to oversee the industry and license universities and private companies that could produce the oil. The bill would also allow the state to license pharmacies and private companies that would sell low-THC cannabis oil to medical marijuana patients. The bill does not legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the state, nor does it allow smoking or consuming marijuana.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have currently approved the use of medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Georgia General Assembly passed a bill late Tuesday that allows medical marijuana sales, providing a way for patients to buy the drug that they’re already allowed to use.

The legislation, House Bill 324, licenses private companies and universities to grow medical marijuana. Then pharmacies and possibly dispensaries could sell it to the state’s 8,400 registered medical marijuana patients.

The bill was in jeopardy until Gov. Brian Kemp helped broker a deal between House and Senate leaders who had struggled to strike a balance between providing access to legitimate patients while preventing illegal marijuana distribution.

The measure now goes to Kemp for his signature or veto.

The House passed the bill 147-16, and the Senate approved it 34-20.“Over the years, I’ve met with children who are battling chronic, debilitating diseases. I’ve heard from parents who are struggling with access and losing hope,” Kemp said. “This compromise legislation is carefully crafted to provide access to medical cannabis oil to those in need. This is simply the right thing to do.”

Georgia legalized medical marijuana consumption in 2015 for patients suffering from severe seizures, deadly cancers and other illnesses, but the government didn’t provide any way for them to purchase it. It remains against the law to buy, sell or transport medical marijuana oil.

Patients obtained the drug through the mail, by driving out-of-state or from friends.Under the bill, up to six private companies would be licensed to grow and manufacture medical marijuana oil.

In addition, two universities could start medical marijuana programs.

Pharmacies would initially be able to sell the drug, and a state oversight board would have the authority to allow private dispensaries.
Smoking or eating marijuana would remain prohibited.

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