Georgia’s top elected leaders moved forward Tuesday with a program to provide medical marijuana to the state’s 15,000 registered patients, nearly seven months after Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law.
Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan appointed seven members to a commission that will issue licenses for companies to grow and sell medical marijuana oil.
The appointments were a key step for patients who have been allowed to use the drug since 2015 but had no legal way to buy, grow or transport it. State law allows marijuana oil to treat severe seizures, terminal cancers, Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses.
Now, the seven-member board can begin creating a medical marijuana distribution network across Georgia, establish testing and oversight rules, and issue licenses for businesses to sell low THC oil, according to a state law passed this year, called Georgia’s Hope Act.
“Georgia’s Hope Act provides a critical pathway for Georgians with chronic, debilitating diseases to get the help that they desperately need,” Kemp said in a statement.
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission includes three doctors, a police chief, a health policy professor, the president for the Georgia Board of Pharmacy and a small-business owner. The commission’s chairman is Dr. Christopher Edwards, the principal surgeon for the Atlanta Neurological & Spine Institute.
Still, it could take time before regulations are approved, licenses are issued, medical marijuana is grown and products are sold.
Terri Thrower, who suffers muscle spasms and “sharp, knife-type” pain related to the nerve disease peripheral neuropathy, said patients can’t wait long.
Thrower has been obtaining medical marijuana oil through an informal network of patients since she moved from Illinois to Blairsville 2 1/2 years ago. She wants a safe and stable way to get the medicine.
“I need the government to actually get this done,” said Thrower, who volunteers for a group that helps people with disabilities. “I really hope that they’re putting patients’ needs into the equation. A lot of us have been waiting a long time.”
The commission’s members weren’t named until state officials vetted more than 50 candidates. The medical marijuana law set strict requirements for appointments, including a rule that commission members couldn’t have financial interests in a cannabis oil firm during their four-year terms and five years afterward.