Regulator’s goof could adversely affect Georgia’s medical marijuana operators

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Dispensary owners in Georgia’s low-THC medical marijuana program have far fewer customers to serve than anticipated after state health officials said they dramatically overstated the number of patients in the program.

After previously reporting there were 50,000 MMJ patients in the state, the Georgia Department of Public Health is now saying that number is only about 14,000, according to Atlanta TV station WXIA.

Officials told WXIA that the mistake was made because the state MMJ system included:

  • Expired patient registrations.
  • Duplicate cards.
  • Patients counted as caregivers.
  • Roughly 3,400 patients who had died but not been removed from the registry.

Georgia’s health commissioner, Kathleen Toomey, told the TV station that the state relied on physicians to remove the names of cardholders who had died or stopped using low-THC products.

However, many physicians stopped doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

A mistake of that magnitude could have major ramifications for Georgia MMJ operators because the number of patients determines how many dispensaries are allowed in the state, WXIA reported.

Under state law, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission (GMCC) may hand out up to five initial dispensing permits to each production licensee.

In addition, the GMCC said in an April news release, state law “authorizes the Commission to issue a sixth dispensing license to each production licensee when the Low-THC Oil Patient Registry reaches 25,000 registered patients and, then, an additional dispensing license for every 10,000 patients added after 25,000.”

Two companies currently are licensed to operate five dispensaries apiece in Georgia: Florida-based multistate operator Trulieve Cannabis Corp., which was the first to begin sales, and Botanical Sciences.

Gary Long, the CEO of Botanical Sciences, told WXIA, “We were disappointed to learn of this discrepancy because we rely on this data to make critical business decisions.”