The cultivation of cannabis is legal in Clayton County but only to produce low THC medical cannabis oil. The 2015 Georgia House Bill 1 (HB 1) or Haleigh’s Hope Act permitted the use of low THC medical cannabis oil that must have a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of lower than 5%. In April 2019, House Bill 324 (HB 324) updated HB 1 and permitted licensed cultivators to grow medical cannabis.
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission (GMCC) is the licensing authority granting applicants either a Class 1 production license or a Class 2 production license. A holder is only allowed to have one type of license. Statewide, only two Class 1 production licenses and four Class 2 production licenses will be issued by the GMCC.
A mandatory, non-waivable, non-refundable, and non-transferable application fee of $25,000, an initial license charge of $200,000, and an annual renewal fee of $100,000 are required for the Class 1 production license.
A mandatory, non-waivable, non-refundable, and non-transferable application fee of $5,000, an initial license charge of $100,000, and an annual renewal fee of $50,000 are required for the Class 2 production license.
Any time a Class 1 or Class 2 production license is sold, transfer fees are due. The transfer fees payable for the Class 1 production license are:
First sale: $100,000
Second sale: $150,000
Third sale: $200,000
Fourth sale: $200,000
The transfer fees payable for the Class 2 production license are:
First sale: $12,500
Second sale: $62,500
Third sale: $112,500
Fourth sale: $112,500
The deadline for both kinds of license applications was January 27, 2021. On September 21, 2022, the Commission issued two Class 1 licenses, with the holders having until September 2023 to start using them. Class 2 licenses have not yet been issued as of December 2022.
Cannabis may be grown only indoors. Growing areas can reach up to 100,000 square feet with a Class 1 production license. Cannabis can only be grown in an indoor area of up to 50,000 square feet with a Class 2 production license. Although the Georgia Department of Agriculture does not have any control over cannabis cultivation, HB 324 mandates that cannabis cannot be grown using any artificial pesticides regulated by the department.
Licensed Class 1 and Class 2 cannabis production facilities may not be established 3,000 feet or less from the property line of an existing private or public school, any early education or early care program, or religious place of public worship.
A licensed Class 1 and Class 2 cannabis production facility is subject to the separate annual inspection of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the GMCC. Whenever the law enforcement agency in the locality where the facility is set up requests an inspection, the facility is also required to comply.
All the low THC medical cannabis oil produced by licensed Class 1 and Class 2 cannabis production facilities must undergo and pass tests for potency, microbes, heavy metals, leftover solvents, insecticides, and foreign objects by a Commission-approved laboratory. License holders are required to destroy any cannabis oil that fails the tests and submit evidence of such destruction to the GMCC.
A tracking system is also required for licensed Class 1 and Class 2 cannabis production facilities to monitor and document their cannabis inventory. This must include plants that are being trimmed, dried, and cured, as well as oils and any waste and waste disposal procedures.
The manufacturing of cannabis is legal in Clayton County but HB 324 only allows it to manufacture low THC medical cannabis oil. To be able to do this, a company must hold a Class 1 or Class 2 production license granted by the GMCC.
Low THC cannabis oil manufacturing operations have to go through annual inspections by the GMCC and Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They also have to pass tests from an independent laboratory approved by the GMCC and establish a tracking system for their ingredients, products, and waste.
HB324 clearly forbids the consumption of medical cannabis with a low THC content by vaporization. Therefore, it is prohibited for producers who hold a Class 1 or Class 2 license to create medical cannabis oil with a low THC content that is meant for vaping.
The retail sale of cannabis is legal in Clayton County under HB 324 but only to sell low THC medical cannabis oil to patients registered in the Low THC Oil Registry. The registry was created by HB 1 under the management of the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Currently, applications for Low THC medical cannabis dispensing licenses are not yet being accepted by the GMCC since rules covering it are still being drafted. The GMCC Annual Report for 2022 states that in the meantime, holders of Class 1 and Class 2 low THC cannabis producer licenses will be allowed to establish up to five dispensaries each.
There are no provisions in HB 324 regarding cannabis delivery. Rules covering cannabis retail being crafted by the GMCC may clarify the matter once they are finalized.
Residents of Clayton County may apply to be included in the Low THC Oil Registry and acquire a medical marijuana card if they are diagnosed with any of the following qualifying medical conditions:
● Crohn’s disease
● Epidermolysis bullosa
● Mitochondrial disease
● Trauma-caused post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for patients aged 18 and older
● Autism spectrum disorder for patients aged 18 and older
● Severe autism for patients below 18 years old
● Intractable pain
● Severe Tourette’s syndrome
● Seizure disorders
● End-stage or severe peripheral neuropathy
● End-stage or severe amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
● End-stage or severe AIDS
● End-stage or severe multiple sclerosis
● End-stage or severe Alzheimer’s disease
● End-stage or severe sickle cell disease
● End-stage or severe Parkinson’s disease
● End-stage cancer, or cancer treatment that causes wasting illness or intractable nausea and vomiting
● Conditions that need outpatient or inpatient hospice care
If the patient requires a caregiver, or if the patient is a minor, the patient’s parents, guardians, or legal custodians may apply for a caregiver’s medical marijuana card.
The patient initiates the application process by downloading the required forms and taking the Low THC Oil Waver and Low THC Oil Physician Certification Form to the physician treating them for the qualifying medical condition. The physician must hold a state license as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and must be a member of good standing of the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
The physician will fill up the forms and log their contents in the Low THC Oil Registry. The physical copy of the forms will stay with the physician, among the other medical records of the patient. The patient may request a copy of each.
Once the application has been approved, the patient and caregiver will be contacted by the Registry to determine their preferred public health office location where they can pick up their medical marijuana card. This often takes 15 days from the submission of the online forms. Upon pickup, the patient and caregivers must pay $25 each.
The validity of the medical marijuana card is two years. The holders are permitted to travel within the state with up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC medical cannabis oil in their possession.
Sales of medical cannabis oil with a low THC content will be subject to use tax and sales tax, per HB 324. As of yet, no percentage has been stated. However, according to the GMCC's 2022 Annual Report, there was no production of low THC medical cannabis oil in 2021.
The Commission must transfer all funds derived from cannabis application and license payments to the Treasury, according to the law. The total amount of application fees collected during the fiscal year 2021 was $765,000. The Commission anticipated that application revenue will total $800,000 for FY2022.
Even though Georgia, including Clayton County, has allowed low THC medical cannabis use, no sales have yet started. As a result, it is not yet possible to assess its impact on crime rates.
For future assessment, it will be useful to note that according to data from the Clayton County Police Department on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer page, in 2020 there were 1,002 arrests for drug abuse violations in the county, of which 577 were for marijuana possession and 24 were for marijuana manufacturing or sales. There were 228 DUI arrests.