In 2015, Georgia approved Haleigh’s Hope Act – a highly restrictive medical cannabis bill that permits patients with approved serious medical conditions to use medicinal cannabis. However, the medical cannabis bill only allows patients to use cannabis oil with a maximum of five percent
THC, and it does not permit buying, selling, or transporting the oil. In 2019, Georgia’s General Assembly passed legislation that legalized licensed cannabis cultivation in Georgia and the conversion of the leaf into cannabis oil and the retail sale to eligible patients. A recent decision by the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will propel Georgia’s medical cannabis industry forward.
On Nov. 23, 2020, the Commission voted to release a Request for Proposals (RFP) that opens up the licensing process for businesses seeking to cultivate and manufacture low THC cannabis oil. The state will issue six total production licenses – two “Class 1” licenses and four “Class 2” licenses for indoor cultivation and manufacturing. Class 1 licenses are permitted to operate in up to 100,000 square feet of space, whereas Class 2 licensees will be limited to 50,000 square feet. Deadlines are fast approaching as applicants have until Dec. 28 at 2 PM EST to apply. Class 1
applications require a $25,000 non-refundable application fee along with a $200,000 licensing fee and a $100,00 annual renewal fee. Class 2 applications require a $5,000 non-refundable application fee, along with an initial $100,000 licensing fee and a $50,000 annual renewal fee. In addition to application fees, applications must have a large cash bond payable to Georgia or an irrevocable line of credit issued within 30 days of licensure. For Class 1 licenses, the amount is $1.5 million, and for Class 2 licenses, the amount is $625,000. Once licensed, a business will have one year to become operational, or their license can be revoked. Applications and information about the application process can be found on the GA Access to Medical Cannabis Commission website.
Although Georgia’s medical cannabis program has taken a long time to develop and only has 14,000 registered patients, the application and licensing process is expected to be highly competitive and nuanced. Many entrepreneurs expect Georgia’s medical cannabis program to mature and become more progressive over time, eventually leading to a recreational cannabis market. The early bird gets the worm. Should this scenario play out, early licensees will likely have a significant competitive advantage in being first to market in a brand new and highly lucrative industry.
Licenses are expected to be issued by March of 2021. Once businesses are licensed to operate, it can take up to six months or longer before oil may become accessible to patients. Applications for dispensary licenses are not yet available. The long-term future of cannabis in Georgia remains hazy; however, the immediate future is prosperous. The Dec. 28 deadline is approaching quickly! It’s not too late. If you need last-minute support, subject matter expertise, facility design, board representation, or other assistance with the application process, contact us today!
Andy is an Operations Advisor at Catalyst BC.