Republican Georgia Gov Signs Medical Marijuana Oil Bill Critics Call ‘Back Door’ To Recreational Use

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill Wednesday that permits growing marijuana for the manufacturing of medical marijuana oil with up to 5 percent THC.

The law, which was spearheaded by Republican state Rep. Micah Gravley in the Georgia House, makes it legal for Georgians to grow and obtain limited amounts of medical marijuana oil. A 2015 law had legalized the oil but not provided a way for Georgians to manufacture or obtain it.

The law allows six growing licenses for private companies in the state, two for larger businesses and four for smaller businesses, reported The Associated Press. (RELATED: Georgia’s Republican Gov Signals Openness To Medical Marijuana Expansion After Bill Passes State House)

Critics of the bill say it could allow the proliferation of “snake oil” products and act as a “back door tactic” to push for recreational use, Colton Grace of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp addresses the audience and declares victory during an election watch party on July 24, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Brian Kemp addresses the audience and declares victory during an election watch party on July 24, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

“SAM supports any medically beneficial derivative of marijuana that can stand up to FDA scrutiny,” Grace said. “This is why we have supported the production of Epidiolex to help treat rare forms of epilepsy. As it stands, the relaxation of laws around marijuana oils and the accompanying lack of oversight and regulation of these products can lead to the proliferation of fake products.”

Kemp had excited medical marijuana advocates in March when he signaled openness to signing the bill during an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“When it passes with a constitutional majority,” Kemp said, “it might not matter what I think.”

Kemp said he was impressed by the “strong vote” for HB 324, which passed the Georgia House 123-40, according to The AJC. Patients with one of sixteen medical conditions must register for a medical marijuana card to legally possess it.

“I don’t see [the law] as a step forward toward legalization. I see it as a step forward for the possibility of getting some type of cannabinoid medicine to patients in Georgia who have been authorized to have it since 2015 but have had no way to legally get it,” Tom McCain, executive director of Peachtree NORML, told TheDCNF in a phone interview before Kemp signed the bill.

To McCain, the legislation does not go far enough.

“There is a lot more work to be done because 5 percent THC doesn’t work for everybody. It takes more than that for a lot of conditions. There’s still a lot of work to be done,” McCain said. “We only got 8,400 patients on the registry.”

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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