Former Fed Price “Isn’t Right” for Georgia Cannabis?

Lori Ann Reese

Posted by Lori Ann Reese on 08/09/2021 in Medical Marijuana

Georgia Cannabis Licenses

Years of aggressively blocking, obstructing, demonizing, and debilitating progress on federal cannabis prohibition. That is what Tom Price did as a matter of his record in the House of Representatives. If his name sounds a little familiar, that is because Tom Price is the former head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Now he’s taking a spin at Georgia cannabis.

Under President Donald Trump, it was Price’s job to keep the MORE Act mired in congressional red tape. Because Tom Price was the federal authority on health. And because Mr. Price felt so strongly against cannabis, the fight for decriminalization and the legalization of weed for four years came to a standstill.

When the headline reads that Tom Price is now on the Board of Directors for a new cannabis company in Georgia?  It strikes as more than a little bit weird. After all, this guy had a veritable ‘hate on’ for legalized cannabis, even for medical use. And now, in his retirement, he’s going to make bank by being an investor in a new dispensary chain in Georgia?

While Tom Price was in office, he earned a grade of “D” on marijuana policy from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and a non-profit called Drug Policy Action. They are two of the country’s largest cannabis legal reform groups.

Ironic? Not really.  Hypocritical? Yes. Georgia has severely restricted the number of business licenses issued (only six so far). And that has other residents and entrepreneurs waiting for a license to start a cannabis business crying foul.

From Prohibitionist to Georgia Cannabis Capitalist In Less Than Two Years

Does Tom Price’s name sound familiar? You may recognize him because Price resigned in a bit of a scandal. The Inspector-General of the Department of Health and Human Services, Daniel R. Levinson, investigated his boss. Tom Price was found to have bilked taxpayers an estimated $341,000 in non-business-related travel. And he spent millions on private chartered flights while in office.

The New York Times and other news sites were all over it. Because of the hypocrisy of being busted for misappropriating expense funds. Spending over $14,000 on a chartered round-trip flight from Washington to Philadelphia? Even a first-class commercial ticket would have cost less than $3,000. 

Mr. Price didn’t refute the findings of the investigation from his department. He resigned in September 2018. And now, less than three years later, he’s ready to launch his “second act” as an executive and investor in the cannabis industry.

Should someone that fought so hard to negate federal weed legalization now be profiting from it? It’s a 180° turn for the former health official. Does he have insights that would benefit the growth of a new cannabis business in Georgia? As a former Fed, he may. And now he’s going to have a role in the budding cannabis industry in Georgia.

Tom Price Georgia Cannabis
Flikr – DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)

Tom Price Vs. Legalized Medical Marijuana for Patients and Veterans

When we mention that Mr. Price was starkly opposed to the legalization of cannabis, we aren’t kidding. This man repeatedly blocked votes to legalize and expand access to medical marijuana for qualified patients.

How committed was Tom Price to prevent the federal government from legitimizing medical cannabis? The history speaks to a man that seemed to want to stop the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis at every impasse.

  • Price voted against the measure that would stop the Justice Department from stepping in and interfering with state recreational (adult-use) cannabis laws. He voted six times to support the extension of power to the Justice Department, which threatened states that had legalized recreational weed.
  • Tom Price voted three times against a measure that allowed the VA (Veteran’s Affairs) physicians to prescribe cannabis. The VA can only prescribe medications that the federal government approves.  However, veterans who get a medical card will not lose their government benefits.

One of the good things that Tom Price did while serving as the Head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was to support CBD and hemp. Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry proposed bill HR 2578 amendment 335. 

It “prohibit[ed] the use of funds to take any action to prevent a State from implementing any law that makes it lawful to possess, distribute or use cannabidiol oil.” One of the intentions of the amendment was to protect research into CBD for therapeutic use.

Botanical Sciences LLC. Issued One of Six Georgia Cannabis Business Licenses

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), there were 69 businesses vying for only six licenses to be issued by the Georgia cannabis authority. And fifteen of the 69 applicants have filed protests that will delay the new medical marijuana program. 

Protests are common anytime a new MMJ program launches in a state. The companies that didn’t get a license? They can legally dispute the criteria used to select the winning applications. There is always a point system used to determine who gets a permit, and who doesn’t. But like other states, Georgia will be likely to issue more licenses in time. Curaleaf (America’s largest cannabis dispensary brand) is one of the businesses that filed a complaint to the Georgia Cannabis Commission.

The companies that won a practice to cultivate, process, and sell medical cannabis products in Georgia were also announced by the Commission. It’s been a long time coming since it has been over six years since the law legalizing medical cannabis was passed in Georgia.

The companies that were awarded a business license included:

The sixty-three (63) companies that were not awarded a license will look for flaws in the selection process. And one of the most contentious possible ‘conflict of interest’ points may be Tom Price and his appointment to the Board of Directors for Botanical Sciences, LLC.  

Only Trulieve and Botanical Sciences, LLC, received the coveted Class 1 licenses. Officials have also announced that they will approve and license up to thirty (30) dispensaries in Georgia.  

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