Earlier this year, it appeared that Georgia had fully embraced medical marijuana with the signing of a new law that allowed the cultivation and distribution of it in the state. But six months later, the fledgling program has stalled, leaving patients there unable to procure the treatment.
A report this week from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution detailed the reason for the delay: the state’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and other top officials have yet to appoint any members to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission.
The seven-member commission was a central component of House Bill 324, which Kemp signed into law back in April. The bill gave the OK for companies to grow and sell medical cannabis oil in the state, while also giving the commission extensive oversight over which businesses can sell it and other requirements.
In other words, without the commission, the law is essentially dormant.
Medical Marijuana in Georgia
HB 324 marked a significant expansion on a 2015 Georgia law that permitted the use of low-level THC oils for patients with certain qualifying conditions. Under that law, patients had no way of purchasing the cannabis, and often resorted to going out of state to access it. The new law sought to resolve that, creating a system to also grow, process and distribute the oil in the state.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that aides for Kemp, state Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and state House Speaker David Ralston did not provide an explanation for the lack of appointments to the commission. Kemp expressed conflicted feelings about the legislation when it was being debated by Georgia lawmakers.
“I respect the legislative process, and I understand why people are doing it, and I understand why people have grave concerns about this,” Kemp said around the time of the bill’s passage. “I have all of those feelings. It’s a really tough spot.”
Ultimately, it was the first-term governor who helped broker a deal between the state House and Senate to produce compromise legislation.
“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 in April. “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.”
HB 324 authorized six companies to cultivate cannabis in the state, while charging the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission with deciding which pharmacies will be permitted to sell the oils. The bill also authorized two in-state universities to study cannabis.