May 1st 2023 By Dr. Yolanda Henderson
After years of waiting, thousands of patients on Georgia’s medical cannabis registry, are now able to legally receive their medicine.
On Friday, Trulieve Georgia opened doors in both Marietta and Macon cities, making history in the state as the first medical cannabis dispensaries. The day before Truelieve GA submitted three applications for facilities in Marietta, Pooler and Macon, and Botanical Sciences LLC submitted for facilities in Pooler and Marietta.
“This is a milestone for the commission, and certainly for the certified patients who will be able to legally obtain medical cannabis,” said Commission Chair Sidney Johnson. “They’ve waited a long time for this relief. The initial law was passed in 2015. It took four years to get legislation creating the commission, and now, four years later, we have created the regulatory infrastructure and are not far off from the day when licensees will open their doors for patients.” Dr. Yolanda Henderson, ND, Veteran, Cannabis Educator, Founder of the first state approved medical cannabis school in Georgia, (The Gift of life Community Home Institue, C/O Atlanta Academy of Cannabis Science) Multiple sclerosis survivor, had happy but mixed emotions.
Dr. Henderson was able to talk and cry with patients and caregivers who long waited for medical cannabis relief. Particularly, Sydney Wages, the first served Medical cannabis patient in Georgia. “I had mixed feelings of sadness knowing that some patients did not make it to see this day due to the time and legislation in Georgia but finally, was overjoyed with the decision to open. I also cried tears of joy knowing patients like me could have in state access to medical cannabis, stated Dr. Henderson. She was also fascinated by her former graduate of her medical Cannabis trade school, a dispensary tech who served the first medical cannabis patient. The school certifies Dispensary techs, comprehensive, and educate Medical Cannabis Health Coaches. For the more than 27,000 patients on the list, metro Atlanta counties account for the largest portion. Cobb and Fulton counties are home to between 2,000 and 3,000 patients each, according to the commission. Bibb County has between 500 and 750 patients, and Chatham County has between 250 and 500.
Each company can apply for up to six dispensing licenses.
“We can anticipate that future locations will continue to reach even more patients as our licensees continue to open additional locations,” said commission Executive Director Andrew Turnage.
Once the facilities open, registered patients or their caregivers can check the commission’s website to verify their licenses. To get their medicine, they will need to bring their Department of Public Health-issued patient registry cards along with a photo ID.
Spots on the registry are only open to people with serious diagnoses including end-stage cancer, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. The program does not allow for recreational forms of marijuana.
The state Legislature legalized low-THC medical cannabis oil in 2015, but the law did not allow a way for patients to legally receive the drug.
The approval absolutely marked the start of relief for Georgia’s patients, but some of the other companies that applied for licenses to grow the product in Georgia say the process for deciding who would get the licenses was unfair. The state also granted a different tier of licenses to four smaller growers, whose court cases are continuing.
This year, lawmakers considered but did not pass legislation aimed at opening up that process and expanding the number of growers. Dr. Henderson believes more medical cannabis dispensaries will be needed to meet the demands of the new and upcoming medical cannabis card holders, now that the access is now open. She also stresses more students learn about the job and career opportunies within the industry that are lacking.