Health, Local

Kemp Signs Medical Marijuana Oil Bill, Making Sales Legal

Gov. Brian Kemp signs the bill as lawmakers and advocates look on.
Gov. Brian Kemp signs the bill as lawmakers and advocates look on.
Credit Sam Whitehead / WABE

Gov. Brian Kemp has signed a bill into law allowing for the in-state cultivation and sale of medical marijuana, closing a loophole that allows people to use the drug but no way to access it.

Georgia currently allows patients with certain medical conditions such as cancer and seizure disorders to use cannabis oil, but until now they’ve had to break federal law to bring the drug into the state.

Kemp said the new measure will change that.

“Instead of crossing state lines, breaking numerous laws in the process, these families [who rely on medical marijuana] can now stay in our great state,” he said during a signing event Wednesday at the Capitol. “Their focus can be on what matters: the health of their loved ones.”

The measure will create a state commission to oversee medical cannabis production and distribution. It will issue up to six licenses to companies to grow marijuana in indoor facilities and turn it into low-THC oil.

The law will also allow the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University to conduct research on the therapeutic uses of the drug.

All that is good news to Brad Williams, who’s lobbied lawmakers for expanded access to medical cannabis for years.

“This bill being signed is a huge relief for me. I get to stop worrying about getting my door kicked in and being pulled over and arrested,” he said.

Williams said he sustained a traumatic brain injury and has been confined to a wheelchair since a car accident more than a decade ago.

“Prior to using cannabis, I was on 20-something pharmaceuticals a day including morphine and lortab and antidepressants, and I was miserable every confounded day,” he said.

The bill also allows the state pharmacy board to establish and manage medical marijuana dispensing licenses for pharmacies.

Bob Coleman, with the Georgia Pharmacy Association, said he looks forward to working with the state to implement the new law.

“We believe a pharmacist needs to be involved in the process of dispensing THC oil in the state,” he said.  “Simply put, consultation with a pharmacist results in improved patient outcomes.”

The National Council of State Legislatures says 34 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands have medical marijuana programs.

Ten of those states allow for recreational use. Kemp has said that’s not in the cards for Georgia.