Medical Cannabis Oil Distribution On The Horizon In Georgia

Medical Cannabis Oil Distribution On The Horizon In Georgia

As a beacon of hope for patients in Georgia, an executive director has finally been appointed by the Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee the next stages of development for the state’s medical marijuana program.

Andrew Turnage, who has experience as executive director for both the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers and the Georgia Board of Nursing, was selected over four other applicants. 

“We have one goal, and that’s to get oil for families in need,” Turnage said to Valdosta Today. “Think about families that have struggled to have their basic needs met during this pandemic. We have families in Georgia that have struggled for years to get this basic need, low-THC oil, and our task will be to ensure that they receive it.”

Turnage came highly recommended for the position by The Goodwin Group, an executive recruiting firm that reportedly consulted with cannabis industry experts before making the recommendation. 

“Mr. Turnage not only has the experience The Goodwin Group recommended, but specifically in the area of state licensing, which is essential to getting us up and running and producing low-THC oil,” said the commission’s chairman and principal surgeon at the Atlanta Neurological & Spine Institute, Dr. Christopher Edwards.

Turnage will be responsible for establishing the selection process for licensing cultivation and distribution businesses as well as lab-testing and system regulations. At least six cultivation licenses are expected to be awarded, but the timeline for when the legal distribution system is expected to be in place has not been released. 

According to the program’s website, conditions that qualify a person to be able to apply for the Georgia Medical Marijuana Program include:

  • Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness or recalcitrant nausea and vomiting 
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries 
  • Multiple sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Mitochondrial disease 
  • Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage 
  • Tourette’s syndrome, when such syndrome is diagnosed as severe 
  • Autism spectrum disorder, when (a) patient is 18 years of age or more, or (b) patient is less than 18 years of age and diagnosed with severe autism 
  • Epidermolysis bullosa 
  • Alzheimer’s disease, when such disease is severe or end stage 
  • AIDS when such syndrome is severe or end stage 
  • Peripheral neuropathy, when symptoms are severe or end stage 
  • Patient is in hospice program, either as inpatient or outpatient 
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from direct exposure to or witnessing of a trauma for a patient who is at least 18 years of age

A Brief History

It all began in 2015 when Georgia lawmakers approved legislation to allow registered medical marijuana patients in the state to possess and use up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC cannabis oil. In order to qualify as “low-THC” the oil must contain no more than 5 percent of the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

Last year, the state appointed members to the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, and an executive director was just elected by that board in May of 2020.

In five years of program development, patients still have no way to legally purchase the oil within state lines. Registered patients and caregivers are forced to obtain the medicine on the black market, where it is neither regulated nor lab-tested, or buy it in another state, breaking federal laws to drive it across state lines. 

Georgia legislators have been aware all along that a system for distribution needed to be established. In 2017, a top Georgia lawmaker even made headlines when he admitted to smuggling medical marijuana into the state for patients who were suffering.

Program Expansion

The chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that translate into the effects felt, and deliver medicinal value to the consumer, are called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), work synergistically in a process known as the entourage effect. Simply put, this means that these cannabinoids are more effective when they are able to work as a team than when they are used separately. This is why many proponents insist that whole plant medicine or full spectrum cannabis oils are more effective treatment options than CBD oil that contains 5 percent or less THC. For many patients, low-THC oil and CBD isolates simply are not enough to treat debilitating symptoms. 

Now that Georgia is one step closer to providing patients with safe, reliable access to medical cannabis oil, many hope the next step will be expanding the law to include different forms, more methods of delivery, and higher potency options.

Georgia May Be Next To Legalize Marijuana

Georgia May Be Next To Legalize Marijuana

Yesterday Georgia’s Democratic Senator Curt Thompson introduced bills that would legalize both medical and recreational marijuana for the state. The first bill, SB6, would allow adults aged 21 and over to purchase and possess recreational marijuana. The bill doesn’t stop there either. The proposed legislation would also tax the drug and push the proceeds towards education and transportation infrastructure in a 50-50 split.

SB7 was proposed in conjunction with SB6, and would allow the use of medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions like cancer, HIV, and other debilitating medical conditions. Along with allowing the use of medical marijuana, the bill also addresses safe access to the medicine including licensing process for dispensaries and patients.

“During the 2015 legislative session, we will have the opportunity to provide our doctors with an additional tool by legalizing marijuana for medical use,” Senator Thompson said. The majority of Georgia voters are supportive of medical marijuana according to a recent poll by WSB-TV of Atlanta. Of 750 registered Georgia voters, 54% were in favor of medical marijuana.

atlanta-marijuana-arrests

Aside from medical benefits for patients in need, the legalization could start to turn around the long-standing racial disparity prevalent in Georgia marijuana arrests. In Fulton County (Atlanta), over 87% of marijuana arrests are black according to the ACLU.

As societal changes sweep the nation, Georgia could be next in the forefront of the marijuana debate. These bills will undoubtedly receive pushback from both Georgia voters and politicians in early 2015 and it will remain to be seen whether proponents can gain traction. One thing is certain; there is a lot at stake for the nearly 10 million Georgia residents.

Photo Credit: scmikeburton

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