by Dave Williams | September 13, 2021 | Capitol Beat Press Service
ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Agriculture should play a role in the state’s nascent medical marijuana program, a member of a legislative oversight committee said Monday.
“It is an agricultural product. We are an agricultural state,” Georgia Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, said at the inaugural meeting of the Medical Cannabis Commission Oversight Committee. “Involving them in the future is a good thing.”
Gravley was the lead sponsor of legislation passed by the General Assembly two years ago, creating a state commission to license companies to grow marijuana and convert the leaf crop into cannabis oil at low THC content.
The oil is intended to treat patients with various diseases, including cancer, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial disease and sickle cell disease.
The 2019 law also created a Legislative Oversight Committee to oversee the program. But the oversight committee did not meet for the first time until Monday due to delays faced by the commission from seven member states in launching the scheme.
The commission has taken until this summer to award cannabis oil production licenses to six companies.
Two “Class 1” license holders will be allowed to grow marijuana under close supervision in a space of up to 100,000 square feet. Four other companies have received “Class 2” licenses limiting them to a maximum of 50,000 square feet of grow space.
While Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has been a strong supporter of the state’s hemp cultivation program, he’s been cool to the Peach State getting into the oil business. of cannabis.
However, with Black now seeking next year’s Republican nomination in the U.S. Senate, Georgia will likely have a new agriculture chief after the 2022 election.
Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, said the Utah Department of Agriculture is playing an active role in that state’s cannabis oil program, which Georgia sees as a model.
Both states only allow low THC content in cannabis oil, well below a level that would make a user “high,” and neither allows recreational use of marijuana.
Watson said the Agriculture Department’s involvement in the Georgia program is “definitely a conversation to be had.”
The commission, meanwhile, worked on responses to seven protests filed by companies whose Class 1 license bids were rejected and 14 protests filed by rejected bidders for Class 2 licenses.
While this process continues, Gravley said the Oversight Committee should act as quickly as possible to identify labs that can test licensees’ cannabis oil for quality and compliance with the low-potency requirement. in THC.
“Having a variety of labs available to growers would be great,” he said. “There are those who need this oil.”
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