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While 33 states currently permit medical marijuana, and 10 allow for adult-use, a look at the map clearly shows that marijuana remains illegal in most of the South. As a region, cannabis laws prohibit use in any way, with only Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana grudgingly moving forward. But when there is good news about positive trends, we’re happy to share it. Three states, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas recently made important steps in the right direction for medical marijuana use by adults.
Medical Cannabis Laws in Georgia
In 2015, Georgia passed very limited medical cannabis laws which allowed patients to register for its medical cannabis program named the Haleigh’s Hope Act. But here’s the hitch. Until now, the state’s approximately 9,000 enrolled patients could not legally buy, possess, or transport the cannabis oil allowed by law. The law also prohibited commercial cultivation, manufacture, and transportation of cannabis products. Strange, but true. Last week, the state’s new governor signed a 27-page bill which permits private companies to grow and sell cannabis oil products. The state issued a total of six licenses; four to large companies along with two smaller companies. They may only produce and sell processed cannabis oil that is capped at five percent THC with an equal ratio of CBD. The law prohibits smoking and vaping of cannabis oil.
Other Prohibitions Include:
- Marketing medical cannabis to the public or to the state’s existing medical marijuana patients.
- Physicians can’t own a medical marijuana cultivation or distribution company.
- The plant cannot be grown outside.
- The Georgia Department of Agriculture may not regulate cannabis cultivation.
There are also two more positive notes. Georgia’s public universities may obtain cannabis for research purposes from “any available legal source,” not just the University of Mississippi’s federally-designated cannabis research facility. In a nod to social equity for communities of color harmed by the failed war on drugs, medical marijuana cultivators must demonstrate “significant involvement in the business by one or more minority business enterprises.”
Cannabis Laws in Florida
We first talked about Florida’s legalization status in one of our CannaTourism articles. The state approved its Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative in November 2016 by 71.3% of voters, and it took effect in January 2017. Florida has fairly strict medical cannabis laws, minimal distribution and dispensary infrastructure, adult-use is illegal, as was smoking flower.
Last March, newly-elected Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 182 repealing the ridiculous ban on smoking marijuana. State-registered consumers may now purchase cannabis products for smoking. When registering, Florida’s limited medical marijuana program requires patients to bring their primary care patient records that correspond to one of the state’s limited qualifying conditions. In a positive note, the new law also expands the number of dispensary licenses from 14 to 22 with potentially more on the way.
Cannabis Laws in Arkansas
The voters approved its Medical Marijuana Program in November 2016 by a 53.2% margin and it took effect in November 2016. The constitutional amendment legalized medical marijuana and created a limited system for cultivation, distribution, and sales of medical marijuana. However, it took over three years to get the system up and running, and dispensaries will finally open for business in May 2019. Registered consumers will be able to purchase 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana per 14-day period. Growing medical marijuana at home is prohibited.
While the three states take a very conservative approach to medical marijuana compared to Colorado and the West coast states, any positive development is good news for helping people in need. We’ll keep you updated as things change in the South, Texas, and the Mountain West regions which still enforce marijuana prohibition.
Philip Rebentisch is a writer and the Content Editor for Three Wells.