As roughly 20,000 medical cannabis patients await a low-THC oil program rollout in Georgia, a key personnel change was made to the commission that’s in charge of regulating the program.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced April 18 that he appointed Sid Johnson to chair the seven-member Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, which is tasked with overseeing the state’s regulated licensing, cultivation, production, manufacturing and sale of low-THC oil (containing a maximum of 5%), as well as dispensing to registered patients.

Johnson is a former state Administrative Services commissioner and a current University of Georgia faculty member. He replaces outgoing medical cannabis commission chair Dr. Christopher Edwards, whose departure remains unclear as to whether it came voluntarily, FOX 5 Atlanta reported.

Kemp thanked Edwards for his “dedicated service at the helm of the commission,” in a press release announcing the change.

“[Edwards] helped institute many policies and procedures that will allow the commission to continue its critically important work, and we wish him well as he continues his distinguished medical career,” Kemp said.

The commission, which was established in 2019, includes a chair and two members appointed by the governor, two members appointed by the lieutenant governor, and two members appointed by the state speaker of the house.

While the commission attempted to license six companies last year to serve the market, 16 unsuccessful applicants challenged the licensing process, which has since stalled the rollout of the program.

As a result, roughly 20,000 patients enrolled in the program have nowhere to legally purchase the low-THC oil, despite being legally allowed to possess it since 2015.

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With the change to the makeup of the commission, Kemp said in Monday’s press release that he is looking forward to the insight that Johnson will bring in his new role as chair.

“[Johnson] has a keen understanding of how local, state, and federal policies interact and impact citizens, and with his wealth of experience he will assuredly be successful in navigating the commission’s mission in the years to come,” the governor said.

As a UGA faculty member, Johnson promotes the university’s public service mission through consulting and leadership development for the state and local government agencies.

In addition to the appointment, Kemp announced his office will be directing $150,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to the commission for the purpose of expedited protest hearings at the Office of State Administrative Hearings.

As the commission members continues to work toward fully implementing a low-THC oil program, Georgia remains one of 13 states that has yet to legalize the commercial sale of medical cannabis without low-THC restrictions.

Under current Georgia laws and penalties, possessing 1 ounce or less of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year of incarceration and a $1,000 max fine, while possessing more than an ounce is a felony punishable by up to 10 years of incarceration and a $5,000 max fine.