The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission voted Sept. 21 to award two medical cannabis licenses to Botanical Sciences LLC and Trulieve Georgia Inc.
The licenses authorize the companies to grow, manufacture and sell cannabis oil that contains no more than 5% THC, and the companies must begin production within a year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Trulieve is thrilled to receive a Georgia cannabis production license and we appreciate the commission’s diligence throughout the selection process,” Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said in a public statement. “We look forward to educating the Georgia market on the numerous health and wellness benefits of cannabis, as well as providing patients statewide access to the medical cannabis they have been seeking.”
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Trulieve is building an indoor cultivation facility in Adel, Ga., which will also house the company’s processing facility to produce low-THC oil products in oral and topical forms.
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission’s decision to issue licenses is a major step toward getting the state’s medical cannabis program up and running; it’s been seven years since Georgia passed a 2015 law that allows the state’s roughly 24,400 registered patients to possess low-THC cannabis oil but prohibited the cultivation or dispensing of cannabis in the state.
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“It’s good news to our certified patients in Georgia, and we look forward to ensuring that the product comes to market as quickly and as safely as possible,” Sid Johnson, chairman of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law in 2019 to establish a regulated system for the production, processing and sale of low-THC medical cannabis oil. The law also created the commission to draft regulations for the industry and license up to six private companies to produce and sell the oil.
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Sixty-nine companies ultimately applied for the licenses, and the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission tentatively named six license winners in July 2021.
Trulieve Georgia, Inc., an affiliate of Florida-based Trulieve Cannabis Corp., and Botanical Sciences LLC, a Glennville-based company, were selected to grow up to 100,000 square feet of medical cannabis, while FFD GA Holdings, TheraTrue Georgia LLC, Natures GA LLC and Treevana Remedy Inc. were chosen to cultivate up to 50,000 square feet.
The companies were given one year to begin operations, and each licensee was authorized to open up to five retail locations.
More than a dozen unsuccessful applicants filed protests, however, and the licensing contracts were never finalized.
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During this year’s legislative session, the Georgia Legislature considered legislation to jumpstart the state’s stalled medical cannabis program; a bill approved by the House would have essentially restarted the licensing program, throwing out the six licenses that were tentatively awarded last year, while legislation passed in the Senate would have required the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to license six companies that had previously applied for licenses, but not necessarily the six that were tentatively granted licenses last year.
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Lawmakers ultimately scrapped the House’s proposal and advanced the Senate bill, but the legislation died at the end of the legislative session in April.
In the aftermath, Kemp appointed Johnson as the new chair of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, and announced that his office would direct $150,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to the commission to expedite the hearings on the medical cannabis licensing protests at the Office of State Administrative Hearings.
The commission voted in May to expedite the hearings and turn over the responsibility of hearing the protests to the office.
The judge, Stephanie Howells, rejected all the protests in decisions that were finalized Sept. 16, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
However, another unsuccessful applicant, Cumberland Curative, filed a lawsuit against the commission earlier this year, claiming that Georgia’s licensing process was marred by “conflict of interest” and that the company was wrongfully excluded from winning a license.
The commission cannot award the remaining four licenses until the pending litigation is resolved, Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.