A new challenge has been filed asking the court to open up Georgia’s secret medical cannabis regulations

Some of the more than 27,000 patients enrolled in Georgia’s THC oil registry were able to purchase their first legal dose at the end of April. That’s because Trulieve, one of the companies authorized to manufacture and market the drug, has opened stores in Marietta and Macon. .

Trulieve plans to open a third store in Pooler, near Savannah, and another company, Botanical Sciences LLC, is looking to open stores in Pooler and Marietta. But while the store’s products may bring relief to patients suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer and seizure disorders, they’re also helping those suffering from the harsh atmosphere resulting from the controversial approval process. It does not bring relief.

Amid an ongoing legal battle over its license, Open Government Group said Friday it is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision and release court records from a difficult approval process.

“Georgia’s new licensing process for medical cannabis distribution contains serious allegations of corruption regarding processes and procedures, and other serious concerns regarding the suitability, ability, and qualifications of the winning bidder to produce this healthcare product. An April 30 filing by the First Amendment Foundation of Georgia states: “The harm suffered by the public due to the continued practice of secret litigation is: It will definitely be exponential.”

State legislatures legalized low-THC medical cannabis oil for patients with several critical conditions in 2015, but the law did not allow for a way for patients to legally receive the drug.4 Years later, lawmakers passed a bill that would create a process for six companies to grow plants that contain small amounts of THC, the compound that makes marijuana users high, and produce the oil.

That process did not go as smoothly as the elected officials intended. Some of the companies that failed to bid for licenses say they were not treated fairly, with lawsuits continuing over four more licenses to more limited facilities than Trulieve and Botanical Sciences.

The foundation says it’s hard to know how accurate these company’s claims are, as Access to the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission operates out of the public eye.

In June 2022, a Georgia Office of Administrative Inquiry judge sealed all records related to the lawsuit from the dispute. A Fulton County Superior Court judge upheld that ruling in February, and in April the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed the foundation’s discretionary appeal.

In a filing, the foundation called the lower court’s ruling “completely inconsistent” with Georgia Supreme Court precedents that upheld citizens’ right to access judicial records, noting that the lower court’s ruling was a “judiciary.” It threatens the reputation and integrity of the process.” The Administrative Court has ruled that even where millions of Georgians are entitled to health care, they are exempt from transparency and that the general public cannot challenge the rules. . ”

Hartwell Republican Rep. Alan Powell, a supporter of the low-THC program, said the commission would not be available to lawmakers either.

“One of the issues I had was when I called the secretary general at the hearing in 2022. He refused to answer questions to the House Standing Committee,” Powell said. rice field. “And we kept asking questions. What took so long? Why did it take so long to create the approvals and licenses for these operations? and his comment was that under the law passed, he was prohibited from answering the question.”

Powell introduced House Bill 196 this year. This made access to Georgia’s Medical Cannabis Commission subject to the state’s Public Meetings and Public Records Act. The bill passed the House and Senate in different ways, but the two chambers failed to reach agreement by the end of his session in late March.

“This should set a good example for all current and future legislators that every time a law is passed, there must be a specification that these records be made available to the public and legislatures. Because it’s the only way, to make sure things are done the right way,” he said.

Strong first week sales

Visitors to Trulieve’s Marietta store last week stepped into a sleek front office and waiting room. After being greeted by an employee and requesting a doctor-issued medical card, I was whisked through the door into a sales room containing small boxes of low-THC products. glass display case.

A display of medical cannabis products at Trulieve’s Marietta store.Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

The number of registered patients rose slightly with the opening of the first stores to 26,887 on Wednesday, up from 26,590 on April 20.

Andrew Turnage, executive director of the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission, told WABE News that number is expected to rise to 100,000.

General manager Holly Chapman said he has helped customers who traveled up to an hour and a half to get their meds, but most shoppers express a desire to travel further or break the law. It’s the happiness of finally being able to obtain the medicine without avoiding it.

“People are so excited to come,” she said. “Everyone is happy that we are here.

Powell said he was happy that patients were finally able to access the drug, but if the process were more open and more locations were available in other parts of the state. , he was happier.

“I believe competition is good,” he said. “I believe in the free market and the free enterprise system. I don’t know if it will resolve. Those who have sued because they feel they have been wronged by the process of licensing from this covert operation from the Cannabis Commission have the right to file a lawsuit and the courts It depends on how you decide which of these various steps, by the way, this can be solved in 2 months, it can be solved in 6 months, it can be solved in 12 months.

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