Over the years, Georgia has not been one of the first states that comes to mind when thinking about “accessibility” for medical marijuana patients. Truth be told, the state’s laws are actually pretty stringent when it comes to anything cannabis-related.
In mid-2019 however, the Peach State passed legislation that expanded the MMJ program (or as its more officially known, the “low-THC Oil registry”), which was great for Georgia residents interested in self-treating with medical marijuana.
In this article, we explain everything you need to know about how to get a medical marijuana card in Georgia, including what qualifying conditions the new legislature includes, how much the application process costs, and where you’ll have to go to get your meds.
A Summary of Medical Marijuana in Georgia
As we’ve mentioned, the wonderful state of Georgia has not historically been one of the US’ most liberal in terms of allowing patients access to medical marijuana products. Back in 2015, Governor Nathan Deal signed a law that allowed select patients access to what was essentially non-psychoactive cannabis oil. However, very few patients qualified for the program, and very few doctors were willing to get on board with the official recommendation process.
A later Bill allowed select universities to conduct research on cannabis oil to see how it may work as a potential epilepsy treatment, but again, this did not really broaden access to medical marijuana products for average Georgia residents.
Furthermore, the select few patients that did qualify for the state’s “Low-THC Oil Registry” were caught in a conundrum, as there was no process in place to actually go and legally buy cannabis oil products. In other words, qualified patients were left to either order CBD hemp oil online (which they didn’t even need a medical recommendation for), or otherwise obtain their cannabis oil from a “legal” state and transport it back home to Georgia (an act which was – and still is – highly illegal).
Fortunately, as of mid-2019 Georgia lawmakers have expanded the medical marijuana program to include more qualifying conditions, and more importantly, to establish protocols that actually allow qualified patients to buy their cannabis oil from licensed dispensaries in the state.
Where Can Patients Buy Medical Marijuana in Georgia?
To be clear, the Georgia medical marijuana program is not really even a “medical marijuana program” at all. In fact, it is not even included in the list of 33 U.S. states that have approved medical cannabis laws.
This is mostly due to the fact that available products for qualified patients are extremely limited. For example, the only product that’s really allowed for patients in the Low-THC Oil registry is CBD oil that contains 5% or less THC. For those that are used to medicating with traditional marijuana products, a product like this may or may not even be effective.
Furthermore, few Georgia residents realize that CBD oil is actually available to residents throughout the state without having to be placed into the Low THC Oil Registry by a doctor.
Indeed, there are dozens of companies that sell CBD online and ship to all 50 states – including Georgia. They claim to be able to legally do this since their products are made from hemp, rather than actual marijuana. Hemp has a THC content of less than 0.3% by definition, and is legal according to the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.
Of course, some say that these hemp-based CBD oils are not as effective as cannabis oil with higher THC content, so it may indeed be relevant to apply for medical marijuana in Georgia – especially if you’ve tried various CBD hemp oils in the past to little effect.
Just remember, even if you are approved for an MMJ card in Georgia and are added to the state’s Low THC Oil Registry, you will not be able to buy – or possess – marijuana products that get you high. And in fact, until dispensaries start opening up in 2020 (at the earliest), you actually won’t be able to buy any cannabis products at all.
How to Apply for Medical Marijuana in Georgia
If you’ve read all of this and are still interested in applying for medical marijuana in Georgia (or more appropriately applying for the Low THC Oil Registry), the steps are actually pretty simple – that is, if you can find a physician that agrees to speak with you (and potentially recommend) cannabis on your behalf.
If you’ve got a General Practitioner, you’ll need to phone them up and ask if they’d be willing to speak with you about adding you to the Low THC Oil Registry. Unfortunately, few doctors in Georgia are familiar with cannabis-based medication, so you may run into an issue trying to find a “cannabis-friendly doctor” – especially if you live outside Atlanta.
Furthermore, be advised that there is a set list of qualifying conditions that you must be medically diagnosed with in order to be eligible for medical marijuana in Georgia. As of mid-2019, these qualifying conditions include:
- Cancer (end-stage and/or if your treatment produces wasting disease, recalcitrant nausea, or vomiting)
- Severe or end-stage ALS
- Epilepsy / Seizure disorders (including trauma-related head injuries)
- Severe or end-stage Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Mitochondrial disease
- Severe or end-stage Parkinson’s disease
- Severe or end-stage Sickle cell disease
- Severe Tourette’s syndrome
- Epidermolysis bullosa
- Severe or end-stage Alzheimer’s disease
- Severe or end-stage AIDS
- Severe or end-stage Peripheral neuropathy
- Patient is in hospice program
- Intractable pain
Additional Information on Applying for Medical Marijuana In Georgia
Here is some additional information that you need to be aware of if you do in fact suffer from one of the above-listed qualifying conditions and are able to find a cannabis doctor in Georgia that’s willing to speak with you about adding you to the Low THC Oil Registry:
- The application itself is sent in by the recommending physician.
- Cost of the “Low THC Oil Registry Card” is $25 (this does NOT include any additional consultation fees that the doctor’s office may charge).
- Approved patients may be able to possess up to 20 oz of low-THC cannabis oil (i.e. CBD oil with 5% or less THC content).
- If approved, your Low THC Oil Registry card will be good for two years.
- You may not grow your own cannabis.
Also, remember that there are currently no options for buying medical marijuana in Georgia – even if you are approved for and added to the Low THC Oil Registry. New legislation has approved licensed dispensaries to start opening up in the state, but these will likely not be operational until mid-2020 at the earliest.
Final Thoughts on Medical Marijuana in Georgia
As we said earlier, it is not technically even appropriate to say that Georgia has a “medical marijuana” program. They have a Low THC Oil Registry which protects qualified patients in the instance of possessing CBD oil, but there are currently no options for purchasing cannabis products in the state.
Updated legislature in 2019 expanded the Low THC Oil Registry program to include more qualifying conditions, as well as to allow dispensaries to start opening up for qualified patients. However, this will be an ongoing process and by most estimations dispensaries will not be up and running until 2020.
In the meantime, remember that as a Georgia resident you still have access to CBD hemp oil, and can even order it online and have it shipped directly to your Georgia home – without having to be on the “Low THC Oil Registry.” Lack of regulations in this sector, however, have made it difficult to find reliable, high-quality products, so make sure you do your homework and buy from a reputable brand before ordering anything online or in-store (you can find “CBD oils” for sale in a lot of Georgia health food stores, smoke shops, etc, but many of these products are low-quality with a non-verified CBD content).
We hope that this article on medical marijuana in Georgia has been helpful and informative, but as always, feel free to get in touch if you have any additional questions or concerns. Or better yet, feel free to share your question(s) directly with our community by adding them to the comments section below.