Yes, cannabis cultivation is legal in Chatham County but is limited to the cultivation of cannabis to be used in producing low THC oil for medical use. Georgia’s House Bill 1 (HB 1), also called Haleigh’s Hope Act, which was enacted in 2015, first allowed the use of medical cannabis with the creation of the Low THC Oil Registry managed by the Georgia Department of Public Health. Low THC oil is defined by Georgia law as cannabis oil containing less than 5% tetrahydrocannabinol. HB1 was updated by House Bill 324 (HB 324) in April 2019, allowing the growing of medical cannabis by licensed cultivators in the state.
Only growers with a Class 1 production license or Class 2 production license from the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission (GMCC) can legally grow medical cannabis. The GMCC will issue a maximum of two Class 1 and four Class 2 production licenses. Only one license type is allowed per holder.
The Class 1 production license requires a statutory, non-transferable, and non-refundable application fee of $25,000, an initial license fee of $200,000, and an annual renewal fee of $100,000.
The Class 2 production license requires a statutory, non-transferable, and non-refundable application fee of $5,000, an initial license fee of $100,000, and an annual renewal fee of $50,000.
Transfer fees must be paid whenever a Class 1 or Class 2 production license is sold. For the Class 1 production license, the transfer fees are as follows:
$100,000 for the first sale
$150,000 for the second sale
$200,000 for the third sale
$200,000 for the fourth sale
For the Class 2 production license, the transfer fees are as follows:
$12,500 for the first sale
$62,500 for the second sale
$112,500 for the third sale
$112,500 for the fourth sale
Fees for the Class 1 and Class 2 production licenses cannot be waived.
Applications for both types of licenses closed on January 27, 2021. The Commission granted two Class 1 licenses on September 21, 2022, with license holders having up to September 2023 to commence their operations. No Class 2 license has been issued yet.
A Class 1 production license carries the authority to grow cannabis in up to 100,000 square feet of indoor space. A Class 2 production license provides the authority to grow cannabis in only up to 50,000 square feet of indoor space. While cannabis cultivation is not regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, HB 324 stipulates that all artificial pesticides that the department regulates are banned for use in growing cannabis.
Licensed Class 1 and Class 2 low THC cannabis producers are forbidden from setting up facilities within 3,000 feet of the property boundary of a pre-existing site of public religious worship, public school, private school, or any early care or early education program.
The GMCC and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation may inspect the licensed Class 1 or Class 2 low THC cannabis production facility annually, separately. The facility must also comply with a request for inspection from the local law enforcement agency in the area where the facility is located.
Licensed Class 1 or Class 2 low THC cannabis producers are required to shoulder the cost of having their products tested by a Commission-approved laboratory for potency, foreign objects, microbes, insecticides, heavy metals, and leftover solvents. Products that fail the test must be destroyed, with proof of destruction submitted to the GMCC.
Licensed Class 1 or Class 2 low THC cannabis producers must have a tracking system that documents all cannabis inventories from plants to those undergoing trimming, drying, and curing, and manufactured products. This must also include waste and waste disposal.
Yes, cannabis manufacturing is legal in Chatham County, but HB 324 limits it to manufacturing low THC oil for medical use. Currently, only low THC medical cannabis oil with less than 5% tetrahydrocannabinol is allowed for manufacturing. Only holders of Class 1 or Class 2 production licenses can legally manufacture low THC medical cannabis oil.
The ingestion of low THC medical cannabis by vaporization is expressly prohibited by HB324. Licensed Class 1 or Class 2 producers are, therefore, not allowed to manufacture low THC medical cannabis oil intended for vaping.
Yes, according to HB 324, cannabis retail is legal in Chatham County. As of December 2022, the GMCC has not yet opened the applications for Low THC medical cannabis dispensing licenses. The Commission is still in the process of creating the rules for such licenses.
According to the GMCC Annual Report for 2022, though, Class 1 and Class 2 low THC cannabis producer licensees will be permitted to have a maximum of five low THC dispensing licenses each. When the number of patients in the registry increase, the Commission may also increase the number of dispensing licenses to be issued.
HB 324 has no provisions for cannabis delivery. When the GMCC crafts the rules for cannabis retail, it may clarify whether cannabis delivery will be legal in Chatham County and the rest of Georgia.
To apply for a medical marijuana card, Chatham County residents must be afflicted with any of the following medical conditions that qualify for inclusion in the Low THC Oil Registry:
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from trauma for patients aged 18 and older
Autism spectrum disorder for patients aged 18 and older
Severe autism for patients below 18 years old
Severe Tourette’s syndrome
End-stage cancer, or cancer treatment resulting in wasting illness or persistent nausea and vomiting
End-stage or severe amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
End-stage or severe multiple sclerosis
End-stage or severe Parkinson’s disease
End-stage or severe sickle cell disease
End-stage or severe Alzheimer’s disease
End-stage or severe AIDS
End-stage or severe peripheral neuropathy
Conditions requiring outpatient or inpatient hospice program care
The parents, guardians, or legal custodians of a qualified patient also qualify for a medical marijuana card as caregivers if registered by the attending physician.
The patient must consult the physician who is treating them for the qualifying illness. The medical professional must be a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) with a Georgia license and who is in good standing with the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
The patient must download the required forms and bring the Low THC Oil Waver and Low THC Oil Physician Certification Form to be filled up with the attending doctor. The physician will keep a copy of both forms in the patient’s records and the patient may request a copy, as well. The physician then logs the content of the forms online in the Low THC Oil Registry.
After the application is reviewed and approved, the Registry will contact the patient and caregivers to determine the preferred public health office for the medical marijuana card pickup. This is usually within 15 business days. A $25 fee must be paid upon claiming the card.
The medical marijuana card is valid for two years. It authorizes the holder to carry a maximum of 20 fluid ounces of low THC medical cannabis oil within the state.
According to HB 324, sales of low THC medical cannabis oil will be subject to sales tax and use tax. No percentage has yet been specified. The 2022 Annual Report of the GMCC states, however, that no low THC medical cannabis oil was produced in 2021.
The law requires that all income from application and license fees received by the Commission be sent to the Treasury. Application fees collected in the fiscal year 2021 amounted to $765,000. For FY2022, the Commission projected application revenue to reach $800,000.
Even if HB 324 has legalized low THC medical cannabis use in Georgia, including Chatham County, no sales have begun yet. There is, therefore, no basis to determine its effects on crime rates to date.
As a baseline for future comparisons, however, the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer page shows that
in 2021, there were 27,357 arrests for drug abuse violations in the whole State of Georgia, of which 9,764 were for marijuana possession and 975 were for marijuana manufacturing or sales. There were 18,504 DUI arrests statewide. There is no data specific to Chatham County.