A medical marijuana card in Georgia is an identification card that permits the cardholder to possess low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil derived from marijuana plants for medical purposes. It is issued to patients with qualifying medical conditions and caregivers. Georgia passed the Haleigh’s Hope Act in 2015 to legalize the use of low THC oil by persons with specific medical conditions. The Act is named after a child with chronic seizure disorders who had to relocate from Georgia to Colorado for medical marijuana treatment. However, marijuana is illegal under the Federal Controlled Substance Act and is still listed as a controlled substance with a high potential for abuse in the Georgia Controlled Substance Act.
Medical marijuana cards are called Low THC Oil Registry cards in Georgia. Per the Haleigh’s Hope Act, low THC oil is defined as oils containing no more than 5% THC on a dry weight scale and at least an equal amount of cannabidiol (CBD). Low THC Oil Registry cardholders can possess up to 20 ounces (567 grams) of low THC marijuana oil for medical purposes. Other forms of marijuana, including edibles and flowers, remain illegal in Georgia, even for medical use. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) administers the medical marijuana registry program in the state. There are over 20,000 registered Low THC Oil Registry patients and caregivers in Georgia.
The Haleigh’s Hope Act list three categories of persons that can apply for medical marijuana cards:
According to the Act, Georgia residents with specified medical conditions and their caregivers can apply for low THC registry cards. However, caregivers must be legal custodians or legal guardians of qualified patients. The law prohibits patients from designating persons who are not their legal guardians as caregivers. The limitation on caregivers in Georgia is in contrast to most of the other states with medical marijuana programs in the US, where any adult can be designated as a caregiver.
Furthermore, only Georgia residents that have lived in the state for over 12 months are eligible for Low THC Oil Registry cards. The law permits persons previously convicted of criminal offenses to be issued registry cards.
No, a minor cannot obtain a medical marijuana card in Georgia. The Haleigh’s Hope Act permits only persons 18 years and above to be issued with the Low THC Oil Registry cards. Minors under 18 years with one or more of the specified diseases require their parents or legal guardians to serve as their caregivers. Hence, only caregivers of minors can obtain Low THC Oil Registry cards and purchase low THC oil on their behalf.
Per the Haleigh’s Hope Act, physicians can only recommend low THC oil treatment to persons with the following medical conditions and diseases:
An application for Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry card is made by the physician treating a qualified patient. The law requires that a physician certifying a qualified patient must:
A physician makes an application for a patient on the registry portal of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). The physician for a qualified patient must submit two forms for the patient: a waiver form and a physician certification form. The waiver form must be completed and signed by both patient and physician. Both forms can only be submitted by recommending physicians on the DPH registry portal. There is no provision for walk-in or mail applications.
The Georgia Department of Public Health will notify successful patients and caregivers when their cards are ready for pickup. They can pick up their Low THC Oil Registry cards from public health offices closest to them.
Designated primary caregivers will get their Georgia Low THC Oil Registry cards when applications of their patients are approved. Recommending physicians submit registry card applications for patients and their designated caregivers together. Caregivers can pick up their cards from public health offices in the state. Furthermore, the law allows caregivers to have multiple patients provided they are their legal guardians. In contrast, patients can have a maximum of two caregivers.
Georgia Low THC Oil Registry cards are processed within 15 business days of their approval by the Department of Public Health. DPH representatives will contact patients and caregivers to pick up their cards. Incomplete submissions or improperly filled forms may cause delays in issuing cards by the Department. The DPH will notify recommending physicians to effect corrections and resubmit applications.
In Georgia, persons diagnosed with low THC oil qualifying medical conditions must have doctor-patient relationships with physicians who will then apply for registry cards on their behalf. The DPH provides a Registry User guide to help physicians register patients and caregivers on the application portal. Steps involved in applying for a Low THC Oil Registry card include:
Georgia Low THC Oil Registry cards are valid for two years. Physicians must re-examine patients and confirm they are still eligible for low THC Oil treatment before renewing their cards.
In Georgia, Low THC Oil Registry cards cost $25, the standard fee for obtaining vital records in the state. Patients and caregivers must pay the fees when they pick up their cards from public health offices. Hence, only persons approved for the cards will pay for them.
In Georgia, Low THC Oil Registry card applicants must go through physicians to apply for the cards. They must be residents of the state for at least a year and have a doctor-patient relationship with their recommending physicians. The documents physicians will submit on the registration portal are:
Patients' or caregivers’ information found on a Georgia Low THC Oil Registry card includes:
No. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents identifiable medical information of patients, including those submitted for medical marijuana card applications, from being disclosed without their consent. The HIPAA is a federal law that sets the standard for patient healthcare information protection and is enforced in Georgia. HIPAA makes disclosure exceptions for the following:
Furthermore, Per Section 2-1(e) of the Haleigh's Hope Act, Low THC Oil Registry information is confidential and is prohibited from disclosure to the public. However, peace officers are permitted access to the data to verify that an individual possessing the registry card or low THC oil is registered in the program. Patients and caregivers may also make written requests for their information in the registry. The Georgia Department of Public Health can be contacted by calling (866) 782-4584 if there is suspicion of illegal disclosure of Low THC Oil registry information.