Medical marijuana sales come to last in Georgia, but a bill passed by lawmakers late on Tuesday contains significant obstacles before the state's 8,400 registered patients can buy the drug.
The General Assembly approved a unique distribution system that could force patients to wait months or years before being legally able to get medical marijuana oil here.
Six private companies may grow medical marijuana, but no dispensers will be allowed until a minister permits them. Pharmacists can deliver medical marijuana oil to patients, but few pharmacies are likely to participate because it can threaten their federal authorization to sell other drugs. And two proposed university-run marijuana programs will rely on federal approvals.
So far, the government of Georgia has not provided an opportunity for registered patients to purchase medical marijuana oil, although it has been lawful for them to use since 201
It may change under House Bill 324, which contains several possible methods of accessing medical marijuana oil. The bill is now awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp's signature or veto.
Parents who give the oil to their children said they were optimistic that they could finally get a reliable and safe way to buy the fabric. They are currently receiving the drug by mail, driving to other states or friends.
"I've got it, but I can for the last three years," said Julie Doran, a resident Hoschton who uses medical marijuana oil to treat her 8-year-old son's epilepsy and autism. "To be able to access it safely and be able to get it to him without worrying, it would be good."
The bill was halted until Kemp helped mediate an agreement that sought to strike a balance between giving access to patients and appealing concerns that marijuana distribution promotes illegal drug use.
Sheriffs opposed the bill because they said it could lead to large-scale marijuana production exceeding the needs of state-owned 8,400 patients. The number of registered patients is likely to grow if they have a way to get the drug, state legislators say.
"Growing on any scale is a crucial step towards legalization for recreational purposes," said Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs Association. "The amount of oil cultivation must be severely limited."
Georgia's medical marijuana program allows registered patients to use marijuana with up to 5 percent THC, the most important psychoactive component in the cannabis plant. The legislation prohibits smoking or smoking medical marijuana oil.
So far, 33 other states have medical marijuana programs, says John Hudak, a researcher studying the cannabis policy of the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based public political organization. Ten states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Georgia's attempt to provide medical marijuana oil through pharmacies, universities or other states is unlikely to work, Hudak said.
"It will be a more pronounced process for sure," said Hudak. "It will take a little longer than I think the ideal of legislators would have been. It will be a system where they find shocks along the way. "
States that have provided access to medical marijuana have created more expansive distribution programs with more growers and dispensers," said Karmen Hanson, a cannabis policy analyst for National Law Conferences.
The limited program adopted for Georgia Could face challenges that went out of the ground until the government gave a clear way to buy medical marijuana, she said.
"It may be on the books, but can anyone make the system work? "Hanson asked." It's like saying you have to go to the moon, but good luck getting there. It's all so complicated. "
Still, the patients said that the Georgia bill is a step in the right direction, although access to medical marijuana oil can only come from private companies when the state allows them to sell it.
Legislation creates Georgia Access to Medical The Cannabis Commission, which will be able to develop retail rules and regulations before issuing dispensing licenses. The seven member commission is appointed by Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston.
" surely help getting medication in the hands of patients, "said Shannon Cloud, a Smyrna resident whose 13-year-old is taking medical marijuana oil for the treatment of seizures." It is really important to us that patients with whom we have private businesses come and do this because they have the experience. "
Kemp is likely to sign the bill, but he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he is in conflict.
" This is a very, very much hard problem. But there is a lot of legislative support for it. I respect the legislative process and I understand why people are doing it and I understand why people have serious concerns about this, "Kemp said." I have all these feelings. It's a really hard spot. "
– Staff Author Greg Bluestein has contributed to this article.
Medical Marijuana Bill
- Pharmacies would be allowed to sell medical marijuana oil to registered patients if they were approved by the pharmacy.
- No Medical Marijuana Oil dispensers will be allowed until approved by a new state commission.
- Two indoor cultivation licenses could be issued to businesses with up to 100,000 square feet of growing space.
- Four indoor cultivation licenses could be issued to companies with up to 50,000 square feet of growing space
- The University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University may apply for licenses for the manufacture, manufacture and purchase of medical marijuana oil.
Source: House Bill 324
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