11Alive News sent Multi-media journalist Chris Hopper to Seattle on special assignment to cover a series of issues surrounding medical and recreational marijuana use. This is part 1 of 4. 

SEATTLE, Wash. -- 2016 is a big year for marijuana in Georgia. Insiders believe by this time next year, medical cannabis will be legally growing across the state.

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It would come on the heels of this year's law allowing certain patients to possess and use cannabis oil. 

Washington is the cannabis epicenter in the United States.  It's been legal for medical use there for the better part of two decades.  It's one of four states where you can use it recreationally.  Each year, the state of Washington sees millions of dollars exchange hands. The patients who use cannabis have direct access to a clean, safe product, grown responsibly in their home state.

Seattle is a major hub for the cannabis industry, and for many patients it starts at "The Bakeree", medical dispensary south of downtown.

LEGALLY HIGH | How states are making it work

"It's a gigantic emerging industry, and I don't think there's any end in sight," said Anna Shreeve, Owner of the "The Bakeree."

Anna Shreeve, the owner of the medical dispensary and longtime Georgia resident, gave up a successful career to follow a passion to help patients.  "I like the idea of regulation, I like the idea of traceability, and knowing exactly where your medicine came from," said Shreeve.

To enter this state licensed facility, you must have a medical card and an authorization from a doctor.  Shreeve and her staff then confirm its validity with that doctor before the patient receives medicine.

"There are a lot of checks and balances and each time the patient comes in, even if they've been in 200 times, you are still scanning their ID checking their medical authorization for the expiration dates," added Shreeve.

Some of Shreeve's products come from Kevin Slattery.  He's another six figure earner, who put it aside to start Co2 Pharmaceuticals.  It's a very small company yet to make money producing cannabis oil for patients in Washington.

"I get goosebumps every time I talk about them. You know, it's why I'm here, I've literally, I've watched it save people's lives," Slattery said. 

A lifelong cannabis user recreationally and medically, Slattery is a ground up, grassroots, beginning to end producer.  From the plants upstairs in his facility, he's creating a high quality cannabis oil becoming more and more popular with patients.

"You know, I'd like to see it even be more regulated where the physicians can prescribe it," said Slattery.

Slattery and Shreeve continually push the need for greater regulations.They say appropriate restrictions help it grow, raise the quality, and protect the patient.

"What gives the industry sometimes a bad rap is the lack of regulation, the lack of oversight," said Shreeve.

But they both also believe over-regulation stifles the industry.  They believe it grows the black market and keeps the patient from the product. Shreeve believes that's what Georgia did with its current law.

"It would be pretty naïve for Georgia to think that there isn't millions of dollars trading hands right now in Georgia," said Shreeve.

People who work in the cannabis industry in Seattle stress the importance of patients getting the product in their own state.  They believe patients in Georgia are probably getting it from places where they don't know if it's being tested properly, or the black market in Georgia, where it's certainly not being tested.

If in-state cultivation passes in Georgia in 2016, people close to the industry believe it will be highly regulated and restricted.

The Full Series:

Part 1: Growing medical marijuana: How Seattle is making it work

Part 2: Twenty years on medical marijuana

Part 3: Legally High : The recreational marijuana system

Part 4: The future of Medical Cannabis in Georgia

BLOG | The marijuana assignment

If you have comments or questions about Chris Hopper's marijuana assignment, you can reach him on his Facebook page or Twitter account