US (GA): Medical cannabis industry struggles to expand access in Georgia

60-year-old Sylvia Hayes from Stone Mountain, Ga., lives with severe chronic pain resulting from several car accidents. She says medical cannabis is the only way she experiences relief.

That's why Hayes was one of the first patients lined up at the door of Trulieve, a Marietta dispensary of low-THC oil when it opened this year. THC, or Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical component of marijuana that produces psychoactive effects. Street marijuana has a percentage of THC, usually between 15% and 25%.

However, a low-THC oil card allows patients to legally purchase products with a THC content of 5% or less if they have a qualifying medical condition. The card is valid for two years and certifies that the owner is able to possess up to 20 ounces of low-THC oil.

Georgia's laws are more restrictive than most of the other 37 states that allow the medical use of cannabis products, and it took lawmakers eight years to legalize medical cannabis. Sales of low-THC oil products weren't approved until 2021, and the first licensed sales began in April. Because of how new the low-THC oil industry is in the state and the lack of FDA approval, many doctors are hesitant to prescribe it to patients. To complicate the matter further, not all Georgia doctors are able to certify patients.


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