Georgia regulators took steps last week to expedite hearings on medical cannabis licensing protests after legislation to revive the state’s stalled medical cannabis program died at the end of this year’s legislative session.

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously May 5 to turn over the responsibility for hearing the protests to the Office of State Administrative Hearings (OSAH), according to a Capitol Beat report.

Putting that task in the OSAH’s hands was a key provision in the legislation that the Georgia Legislature considered this year to address licensing snafus that have held up the launch of the state’s medical cannabis program.

Georgia’s registered patients have been able to legally possess cannabis oil containing a maximum of 5% THC since 2015, but they have no way to legally purchase the oil, which has yet to be produced and sold in the state.

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Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation in 2019 to set up a regulatory framework for the production, processing and sale of medical cannabis oil in Georgia, and the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission licensed six companies in July 2021 to serve the market.

Sixteen unsuccessful applicants then challenged the licensing process, which has since stalled the rollout of the program.

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Legislation aimed at jumpstarting the program gained momentum in the Georgia Legislature this year as lawmakers attempted to find a legislative solution.

A measure approved by the House would have restarted the state’s medical cannabis licensing process by throwing out the six licenses that were tentatively issued last year.

A separate proposal approved by the Senate would have given the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission a May 31 deadline to license six companies that had previously applied for licenses, but not necessarily the six businesses that were tentatively awarded licenses last July.

A conference committee made up of members of both legislative chambers then formed a compromise proposal, which would have reopened the application process to license three more companies in addition to the original six.

That was the bill that ultimately died last month, at the end of this year’s legislative session.

Meanwhile, a medical cannabis company, Cumberland Curative, has filed a separate lawsuit against the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, alleging that the company was wrongfully excluded from winning a license last year.

After the Legislature failed to find a solution to the ongoing licensing challenges, Kemp appointed a new chair of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission and issued an executive order that earmarked $150,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to expedite hearings for the companies that protested the licensing process, Capitol Beat reported.

The resolution that commissioners approved at its May 5 meeting will transfer the responsibility of holding those hearings from the six-member commission to the OSAH, which the commission’s new chairman, Sid Johnson, said will expedite the process.

“[The OSAH is] in a good position to look at these protests,” Johnson told Capitol Beat. “They’ve got the resources.”