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Georgia medical marijuana stores open, ending long struggle

Medical Marijuana Application
Posted at 11:14 AM, May 01, 2023

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — Georgia's first medical marijuana dispensaries opened Friday, solving a yearslong bureaucratic puzzle where it was legal to treat medical conditions with cannabis products, but not legal to buy them.

Trulieve Cannabis Corp. opened dispensaries Friday in Macon and Marietta, with people lining up at both locations.

Jim Wages, the first customer in Marietta, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his 19-year-old daughter Sydney uses cannabis oil to treat her epilepsy. Now he said he can buy it legally instead of importing it across state lines in violation of federal law.

“We just hit the lottery. We finally got to a point where we could actually walk in instead of having to meet in a parking lot and pick up our oil," Wages said. “It's such a relief.”

Products can bring relief to people suffering from seizures, Parkinson’s disease or cancers.

The state had approved Trulieve's dispensary licenses Wednesday. Medical marijuana will be sold in the form of cannabis oil packaged as liquid tinctures, topical creams or capsules. Smokable products aren’t allowed. Recreational usage of marijuana remains illegal in Georgia, and products sold in Georgia are supposed to have less than 5% THC, the chemical that produces a high.

It's been legal for people in Georgia to use low-THC cannabis oil to treat a variety of diseases since 2015, but a rollout of legal sales has been delayed for years by regulatory challenges. More than 27,000 Georgians have registered to use the oil. Stores can only sell to people who have gotten a registry card approved by a physician.

“Thousands of Georgians will be able to have improved quality of life through access to medical cannabis here in our state,” said Allen Peake, a former Republican state representative from Macon who pushed to legalize the products. “The sky is not going to fall if medical cannabis is provided to Georgia citizens.”

The state has licensed Trulieve and Botanical Sciences to grow marijuana and process it for use. Trulieve Georgia is growing marijuana in Adel, while Botanical Sciences is growing it in Glennville. Botanical Sciences plans to open its first dispensary next month in Savannah, while Trulieve said it plans additional locations across the state. Each company can have up to six licenses.

Several companies that were denied licenses have sued. Four additional production licenses are tied up in litigation.

Nearly 40 states already have medical marijuana programs.