The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill on March 7 that would expand the number of medical cannabis licenses available. The passage of House Bill 196, which received 170 votes in favor and only two opposed, would boost the current license number of six to 15. According to the Capitol Beat, the passage of this bill is to address the lawsuits that the state of Georgia has received from cannabis businesses that were denied a license.

Although Georgia first legalized medical cannabis oil possession in 2015, it took four years for legislators to introduce bills that would regulate cannabis cultivation and sales. In 2019, six licenses were issued in total, including two Class 1 licenses (for cultivation up to 100,000 square feet) and four Class 2 licenses (cultivation up to 50,000 square feet). 

This includes two Class 1 licenses owners Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia, and four Class 2 licenses that were delayed due to numerous lawsuits, which caused the suspension of all chosen applicants.

Initially, the Class 2 licenses were awarded to FFD GA Holdings, TheraTrue Georgia LLC, Natures GA LLC, and Treevana Remedy Inc. in July 2021. Protests were filed by applicants who were not chosen. According to Kristen Goodman, the lawyer representing these four of the applicants who did not win a license, the license process was a “train wreck.” She also stated that the two licenses that have been confirmed went to out-of-state companies. “They’re not serving the children who have excessive seizures in Northwest Georgia. They’re not serving the children with cancer in Southwest Georgia,” said Goodman. “They have all the market they need right here in the central part of the state.”

In an attempt to remedy the situation, the House introduced HB-1425 in February 2022 which would have completely started the license process over from scratch. The Senate offered a substitute to HB-1425 that would ask the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to award licenses to six applicants, but not specifically the same six applicants that were originally chosen. Ultimately, the House bill was shut down and the Senate version advanced, but eventually died at the end of 2022.

Rep. Alan Powell spoke to legislators on March 6 about the necessity of HB-196 as a way to resolve the ongoing issue. “Let’s fix the system,” said Powell. “Let’s get it moving and go forward.”

The HB-196 also requires that a Medical Cannabis Commission Oversight Committee be created to manage “membership, inspections, provision of information, plan for accredited lab testing, and patient and physician input.” If passed, it would also allow the commission to increase the number of dispensaries based on how many medical cannabis patients are registered. Every increment of 5,000 patients would allow an additional Class 2 license, and every 10,000 patients would allow an additional Class 1 license, in order to keep up with demand. As of February, there are almost 25,000 medical cannabis patients on the state registry.

Now HB-196 moves on to the Senate for consideration.

In the meantime, owners of Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia are moving forward with their respective businesses. Botanical Sciences CEO Gary Long told Georgia Public Broadcasting about his progress. “We have already begun the production process, which starts with the seeding of cannabis plants in our indoor growing facility producing a variety of tinctures, capsules, and topicals formulated to address the needs of Georgia patients,” Long said. “The opening of our facility was a key milestone for our company, for the city of Glennville, and for the many thousands of those in need awaiting access to this critical form of medicine.”

Trulieve released a press statement on Dec. 6, 2022. “Trulieve is thrilled to receive a Georgia cannabis production license and we appreciate the Commission’s diligence throughout the selection process,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. “We look forward to educating the Georgia market on the numerous health and wellness benefits of cannabis, as well as providing patients statewide access to the medical cannabis they have been seeking.”

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