The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission on Wednesday unanimously granted four additional companies provisional licenses to produce low-THC oil to help Georgians with a range of serious illnesses.
The licenses go to Fine Fettle GA, TheraTrue, Nature’s GA and Treevana Wellness. The companies will have access to Class 2 licenses, allowing them to grow cannabis in 50,000-square-foot indoor facilities solely for the production of low-THC oil.
Previously, the state had granted Class 1 licenses to two companies, Trulieve and Botanical Sciences, allowing twice as much acreage. By law, the products can only contain a very small amount of THC, the chemical that gets marijuana users high.
The new licenses come as years-long legal challenges to the selection process continue, commission Chairman Sid Johnson said.
“The recent resolution of several court cases, including the Court of Appeal rulings, has enabled us as a Commission to move forward with today’s actions,” he said. “Out of respect for the ongoing legal proceedings, we have decided to award the contract on a provisional basis.”
Johnson said the commission has the power to make interim awards as it sees fit, noting that none of the applicants challenged that power in the contentious process.
“The issuance of these preliminary contract awards for class two production licenses is not only consistent with the terms of the (request) and the purpose of the Hope Act, it is necessary,” he said. “We look forward to working with and building strong partnerships with our Class 2 production licensees, as we have done with our Class 1 production licensees.”
In a statement, Fine Fettle CEO Jeremy Fort said his company plans to harvest the first plants at its Macon-area facility by March and open stores in Athens, Decatur, Evans, Macon, Peachtree Corners and Smyrna by spring .
“We are ready to meet the needs of patients across Georgia who will experience a higher quality of life because this medication is available to them,” he said. “We are committed to the people of this state, which is why we moved forward with the construction of a world-class facility in Macon, where the community and its leaders have welcomed us.”
Since the state first issued licenses this spring, dispensaries have opened in or near major metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Marietta, Newnan, Stockbridge, Macon, Evans and Savannah. In addition, Georgia is set to become the first state to allow patients to purchase low-THC products from pharmacies.
Whether from a pharmacy or pharmacy, patients must obtain approval from a doctor to receive the products. There are currently just over 13,400 patients on the list. Post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer patients make up more than 70% of those on the list, according to the state Department of Health, with peripheral neuropathy, seizure disorders and multiple sclerosis being the next most common diagnoses.
Georgia passed its first medical marijuana law in 2015, but it took years of ongoing legislative action and lawsuits to actually get the drug into hands, and for some, the rollout didn’t go as smoothly as expected.
In brief remarks after the vote, the commission’s executive director, Andrew Turnage, thanked patients for their perseverance.
“I want to thank the patients,” he said. “They were at the forefront of this from day one. Everything this commission has done is for you, the patients. And I just want to say that despite all the sacrifices, dangers and losses that patients have had to endure through this process, we really appreciate that. Everything that happened in this commission focused on patient access. And there is more, more battles ahead. There are other challenges that need to be faced. But together we have arrived at this day, and it all started with the very hard work of the patients.”
This story was provided by WABE content partner Georgia Recorder.