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State awards two medical cannabis 'grow' licenses

Litigation still threatens the process, as left-behind applicants try to stop it.

ATLANTA — The state commission that awards grow licenses for medical marijuana awarded two licenses Wednesday. But, orders from judges prevented the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission from issuing four more "class 2" licenses, after excluded applicants complained that the state failed to give them a chance to appeal.  

The commission awarded licenses to:

  • Trulieve, a "leading and top-performing cannabis company in the US" based in Florida, according to its website; and 
  • Botanical Sciences LLC, which had former HHS Secretary and former US Rep. Tom Price on its board of directors when it applied for a license. The company's website is "under construction."

The two new licenses could represent a step forward to legally produce medical marijuana in Georgia. But, critics say doing that would be unfair to other applicants who also followed the rules and were unjustly denied licenses. They also contend Botanical Sciences jumped to the head of the line because of Price's political clout.

Sixty-nine companies originally applied for cannabis grow licenses in Georgia; state law allows six licenses to be awarded.

Seven years ago, Georgia legalized medical marijuana. But to get it, Georgians have had to buy it from out of state, violating federal drug laws. And Georgians say it’s harder now than ever to actually acquire legal medical marijuana.

“You know where I end up? I end up about a block and a half from (the state capitol in Atlanta) buying my son’s medicine from a drug dealer," Dale Jackson told a legislative committee in March. Jackson’s son has autism. Medical cannabis eases some of the symptoms. 

He told the committee the absence of legally-grown cannabis oil in Georgia forces him to break the law. "That's real, people" he told the committee, which was considering bills to rewrite rules for growing medical cannabis.

The state medical cannabis commission, which awards legal licenses to grow in Georgia, announced it would award six grow licenses at a Wednesday meeting.  In the hours prior to the meeting, judges in McIntosh and Dougherty counties issued injunctions preventing the commission from issuing Class 2 licenses, four of which are allowed under state law.  

But that left out numerous entities that filed paperwork and qualified to get licenses – only to be denied. 

"The decisions made by the GMCC to award these specific licenses were flawed, politically motivated and not consistent with the law," said attorney Kristen Goodman, who filed the McIntosh County motion to stop the awarding of Class 2 licenses.

Goodman said delaying the licensing now will benefit patients, long term.

"We don’t see this protest as being a significant delay in delivering the medication to patients," she said. "We see it as ultimately getting more medication to more patients at a fairer price."

Goodman said, ideally, the legislature would pass a new law allowing more grow licenses for medical cannabis. Lawmakers tried earlier this year to do that but were unable to get anything passed.  

A lot of new legislators will get elected this fall. It will undoubtedly come up again in 2023.

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