Updated on November 19, 2021. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Some states take a great deal of time to roll out a new medical marijuana program. Georgia passed Senate Bill 195, and it was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law, meaning that patients in Georgia will soon be able to access cannabis oil to assist with symptom management. At the time of writing, there were 9,500 registered marijuana users in Georgia.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law a bill to grow and sell medical marijuana in Georgia. The new law allows for up to 9 acres of indoor growing space to cultivate marijuana in the state. Because medical cards are new to GA, it can be challenging for patients to find a cannabis-friendly doctor in Georgia. Especially in jurisdictions outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
Lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia are experiencing some significant pushback from the High Court. There are approximately seventy (70) business applicants waiting on the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. The Commission will be awarding only six (6) business licenses for growers and manufacturers of medical cannabis products.
Georgia’s newly passed medical cannabis laws will limit products exclusively to medical marijuana oil (tinctures) with a maximum of 5% THC potency. The Georgia Supreme Court has stated that lawyers who agree to work with any company that wants to become a licensed marijuana business could face sanctions. Even disbarment. Because lawyers cannot “participate in an activity that they know to be illegal.”
The Georgia Supreme Court has stated that lawyers could face fines and suspensions as well. Despite the fact that businesses wishing to become licensed to produce cannabis in Georgia will require legal assistance. This is a nod to the legal disputes that may be around the corner. And challenges that Georgia lawmakers may face from cannabis business licensees regarding the restrictive Low-THC Registry.
Patients with one or more diagnosed qualifying health conditions will be able to apply for the Low-THC Registry in Georgia. The qualifying health conditions that could make you eligible for a Georgia medical card include:
Patients in Georgia will be required to have regular follow-up appointments and maintain a relationship with the original physician who recommended them for therapeutic cannabis.
A tincture or medicinal oil with a maximum THC potency of 5% is available at dispensaries. So are CBD full flower (cannabidiol) buds are very low in THC but high in CBD.
It is illegal to possess medical marijuana that is higher than 5% potency in Georgia, even if you have an Identification Card. Patients can possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC cannabis oil.
In order to get a medical card in Georgia, you have to be eighteen (18) years of age or older. And you must provide proof that you were diagnosed with one of the approved qualifying health conditions. Anyone under the age of eighteen years requires a state-registered caregiver.
To get a medical card in GA, you must prove that you have lived in the state for a minimum time of one year. You can do this by taking pictures of mail or dated letters in your name, showing your home address in Georgia.
Patients are not required to register themselves or create their accounts with the state of Georgia. After the physician has reviewed and approved you for a medical card, the doctor will create it for you. The physician uploads the information to the Georgia Department of Health Low THC Oil Registry on the day of your appointment.
The documentation includes a waiver (signed by the doctor and the patient) and a letter of recommendation. Both are required for the physician to create your profile on the Georgia medical marijuanas registry.
Once your account has been created by the doctor and submitted, you will be able to pick up your Georgia medical card within fifteen (15) days. You can pick up your medical card at one of the public health offices near you.
The Georgia Department of Public Health will govern the new medical marijuana program. And that includes processing applications for individuals who will be caregivers for minors or adults needing assisted living.
If you are the legal guardian and caregiver for a minor under eighteen years, you can apply to get a medical card for your child.
If there is more than one adult or guardian caring for a patient, both caregivers may register on behalf of the patient. An individual who has a medical card may also be a caregiver for another registered patient in Georgia.
Each caregiver must apply separately. If approved, they will receive a card that has the patient’s information on it. Then they can visit a pharmacy and pick up the cannabis oil for the minor or patient in their care. Caregivers are also legally allowed to administer cannabis to approved patients in their care.
Wondering how long a Georgia medical marijuana card is good for? Once you receive your medical care, it will be valid for two (2) years. Before your medical card expires, you will need to return to your referring physician for a health evaluation and get certified again.
To replace a lost or stolen Georgia medical card, you have to contact the State Department of Public Health. You must prove that you are under the care of the physician who authorized medical marijuana use for your health symptoms.
Once the Georgia department of health has verified the supervision of your licensed practitioner, a new card is issued. It takes approximately fifteen (15) days to process before you can pick it up at a secure location. Remember, you will not purchase or possess medical marijuana in Georgia if you do not have your medical card.
House Bill 324 allows for medicinal cannabis with a maximum potency of 5% THC to be dispensed at locations licensed by the State Pharmacy Board only. So if you are expecting new medical dispensaries to be opening across Georgia, it will not be a retail dispensary model.
The legislation Gov. Kemp signed, House Bill 324, allows pharmacies to sell the drug if licensed by the State Pharmacy Board.
Since 2015, medical marijuana has been legalized in the state of Georgia. However, patients had no dispensaries to purchase it from. And state laws made it illegal to buy, sell or transport cannabis oil. Patients were forced to purchase medical cannabis oil through the mail or drive and illegally bring it home from another state.
Like many states, the story of legalizing medical marijuana in Georgia is a long one. And during each step, there were patient advocates and medical professionals supportive of it. And, of course, opposition too.
February 1980—The Georgia House voted 156-8, and the Senate voted 50-0 to pass Mona Taft’s bill. This was the first bill in Georgia to allow residents with cancer, enduring cancer treatments (chemotherapy or radiation), or glaucoma to qualify for doctor-supervised medical cannabis. The sponsor of the “Controlled Substances Therapeutic Act” Rep. Virlyn Smith (R) mused that he had recently given one of his constituents in chemotherapy a cannabis-infused edible, a chocolate chip cookie.
Source Web 2021: GaCareProject.com
August 1983— The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) gets permission to spray a toxic herbicide called Paraquat on the Chattahoochee National Forest in Northern Georgia. The herbicide Paraquat was known to be harmful but still widely used. The DEA wanted to kill off any illegal cannabis crops being grown in the National Forest. Years later, the state would face lawsuits from people who believed they contracted Parkinson’s Disease from Paraquat.
Source Web 2021: NyTimes.com
April 2015— The ‘Haleigh’s Hope Act’ takes effect in Georgia. It expands the number of qualifying health conditions for medical marijuana in Georgia. But only legalizes Low-THC oils.
Source Web 2021: MPP.org
July 2016— Clarkston City, Georgia, becomes the first jurisdiction in the state to direct law enforcement to use discretion when charging people with one ounce or less of cannabis. The guidance allows law enforcement to issue a $75 citation, no jail time, and no criminal charge as an option. Compared to the previously mandatory twelve (12) months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Source Web 2021: AJC.com
August 2016—The Georgia Legislature strikes back! The state House Judiciary Non-civil Committee deletes a section of a bill that would have allowed the cultivation of cannabis to begin in the state.
May 2017— Senate Bill 16 passes in Georgia which added six qualifying medical conditions to increase patient eligibility.
Source Web 2021: Legis.ga.gov
March 2018— An attempt to lower the penalty of a felony marijuana possession charge fails to pass the Georgia Senate. The bill moved to increase possession from one ounce to two ounces before qualifying for a felony offense. And it sought to reduce the fine for possession of one-half of an ounce of cannabis to less than $300.
Source Web 2021: HRW.com
Unfortunately, the state does not provide specific direction on how to obtain medical marijuana in Georgia. The law only states that patients can have up to 20 ounces of CBD oil that has no more than five percent THC if it is in a pharmaceutical container labeled with the THC percentage. Many patients, therefore, travel to other states and obtain CBD oil, risking arrest by federal authorities. Marijuana and marijuana extracts are considered to be Schedule I controlled substances, making it a federal crime to possess them. Penalties can be especially harsh if someone is caught transporting a Schedule I substance across state lines.
Granted, the chances of a federal agent actually pursuing a case against someone with a small amount of CBD oil is extremely slim. There have been no reported federal prosecutions in this area. However, it can be very difficult for patients to obtain the oil they need to relieve their suffering. It was very unclear as of this writing if there are any plans to create dispensaries within the state that would make it more convenient for patients and their families to obtain the extract.
For more information on how to access CBD cannabis oil in Georgia, kindly contact the Georgia Department of Health directly.
To be notified should the State of Georgia pass legislature to expand its medical cannabis program to include more qualifying conditions, or to learn when and if the state makes it easier to obtain CBD oil, please sign up to the Georgia waitlist.