Georgia is on track to become the first state in the nation to offer medical marijuana products through independent pharmacies. The move is intended to allow increased access to legal medical cannabis for Georgia residents who have joined the state’s medical cannabis program, as well as empower pharmacists to give people advice on medical cannabis use.
The Georgia Board of Pharmacy recently began taking applications from pharmacies, and about 120 have already committed to dispensing medication from Botanical Sciences, one of the state’s two licensed cannabis production companies. The ruling focuses on low THC cannabis oil, a medical cannabis product.
Once an application is accepted from a pharmacy, inspections will be necessary before the board grants final approval.
“Pharmacists have been fielding questions from patients for years without ever having the ability to do anything about it,” said Gary Long, CEO for Botanical Sciences, according to the Associated Press. “Finally, they have the ability not just to give people advice but provide them with the therapies they’ve been seeking.”
Medical Marijuana From Pharmacies Limited to Certain Patients
Under Georgia law, medical marijuana is exclusively accessible to Georgians who have received authorization from a physician to address severe conditions such as seizures, terminal cancers, Parkinson’s disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. Medical cannabis products can have no more than 5% THC, the psychoactive compound that causes the “high” when using cannabis.
The extension of medical cannabis availability to pharmacies will make low THC oil more widely accessible to a larger number of patients, supplementing the seven dispensaries that have been operational since April.
Patients must produce a state-issued low THC oil registry card along with identification to have the ability to purchase low THC cannabis oil.
Making Medical Cannabis More Accessible
If the planned program goes into place, about 90% of Georgia’s population will live within a 30-minue drive of a pharmacy that sells medical marijuana, according to Botanical Science.
About 14,000 people are currently signed up for the state’s medical cannabis program. The state has more than 400 independent pharmacies in Georgia. Most of them are expected to have an interest in distributing low THC oil. National chains such as CVS and Walgreens are not selling the product, according to AP.
“Pharmacists are a trusted provider, and it’s a way for us to destigmatize this new medicine,” Mindy Leech, a pharmacist and the owner of Lee-King Pharmacy in Georgia, told AP. “It will make people more comfortable if they want to come in and ask questions about it.”
Andrew Turnage, executive director of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, told AP that the pharmacy rule is “definitely big news” for those who use medical cannabis in Georgia.
“It helps both our licensees and especially our patients,” he said. “It will put access in virtually every county in the state.”