GA Senate passes bill legalizing cultivation, distribution of medical marijuana

Medical Marijuana bill passes GA state senate

ATLANTA, GA (WTOC) - The Georgia State Senate joined the House in passing a bill Friday legalizing cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. The medical marijuana program in Georgia recognizes 16 conditions including severe seizures, deadly cancer, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis.

However, it is still illegal to possess the low THC oil or bring it across state lines. The Senate passed HB 324 in a 44-8 vote. It breaks down the growth and distribution.

The state would give one class 1 license to a company that can grow up 450,000 square feet of cannabis or hemp at an indoor facility. The licensee can open five retail stores. The cost for a Class 1 license would be $250,000 with $100,000 annual renewal fees.

The state would also issue one class 2 license which will allow a company to grow cannabis and hemp in a 40,000 square foot indoor facility. The licensee can open three stores. The cost for that would be $25,000 with a $12,500 annual renewal fee.

The state would also award 10 independent retail licenses. Companies can open two stores each with those licenses. These stores would have a $20,000 license fee with a $10,000 annual renewal fee. In total, there would be 28 places to buy low THC oil in Georgia.

“These are parents. These are kids. These are veterans who are begging for it, can’t get access and get it legally,” said Gwinnett County Republican and bill co-sponsor David Clark. “You can’t get high from it. Some people talk about you can. This will not lead to illegal [use], people into vaping and those things. If they’re going to do those type of drugs they’ll just go buy it on the black market.”

Rep. David Clark talks with WTOC's Wright Gazaway at the state capitol
Rep. David Clark talks with WTOC's Wright Gazaway at the state capitol (WTOC)

The bill covers everything from cultivation to how much patients can have and the punishments for people possessing the oil illegally. It simply gives legal access to low THC oil to the people current state law already covers.

Legalizing the cultivation has been a fight for proponents of the bill.

“Old fashioned thinking a little bit thinking ‘okay, if we allow the cultivation and the oil to be done right here in the state, they think it’ll turn into recreational.’ That’s a little bit of a fear and we’ve had to fight that,” Clark said. “Again, it’s politics, but I do believe we have the support.”

The version the Senate passed comes way down on the number of licenses to grow marijuana. It also cuts down the retail store from 60 to 28. The Senate and House will have to come to an agreement before the session ends next Tuesday. The changes go back to the House, where they’ll start to work on that agreement.

The Georgia Sheriff’s Association strongly opposes the legislation.

Copyright 2019 WTOC. All rights reserved.