DEA Leans on Georgia Cannabis Pharmacies

Despite the American cannabis industry expanding more rapidly than any other industry in American history possibly with the exception of the railroad industry, there are still numerous clashes and contradictions that arise due to the clearly damaging prohibition of cannabis that still exists on the federal level. Even if the cannabis industry employs nearly 430,000 people across the states and sold over $21 billion in total revenue and conventions the size of MJBizCon are regularly hosted, the cultivation, transportation and retail sale of cannabis remain entirely illegal on the federal level.

With the cannabis industry expanding into states where cannabis legalization itself was once thought of as a never materializing pipe dream and creating uniquely groundbreaking retail markets, instances of these clashes between state and federal law have become far more commonplace. One of the most notable examples just recently occurred in the state of Ray Charles, the Bulldogs, Megan Moroney, worldwide famous peach groves and Gucci Mane. In Georgia, cannabis is still recreationally illegal and the medical cannabis program is very limited in terms of products that are able to be purchased. Certain municipalities throughout Georgia, most notably both the Atlanta and Savannah City Councils, have unanimously passed decriminalization measures.

In the more hopeful and wistful year of 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp  signed House Bill 324, which allowed the cultivation, production, distribution and retail sale of the plants needed to create the low-THC oil that is now permitted. While the list of qualifying conditions is admittedly more expansive and detailed than Texas’ cruelly small list of qualifying conditions for their even more restrictive medical cannabis program, the fact that only low-THC containing cannabis oil is all that Georgian cannabis patients can purchase means that the program is restrictive in terms of products available.

Besides being the first state in the Deep South to advance cannabis decriminalization measures, Georgia was going to make cannabis history in another way, as the Georgia Board of Pharmacy announced back in October that they would allow independent pharmacies to begin selling the low-THC oil that is permitted by state law for medical patients. As opposed to having entirely separate stores and entities to sell cannabis products, Georgia would have been the very first state to allow pharmacies to sell any cannabis-derived products.

In total, 23 different independent pharmacies in Georgia were issued licenses to sell and possess this THC oil while an estimated 120 pharmacies applied in total. Although many national pharmacy chains such as Walgreens and CVS decided very much to side in favor of the federal government’s view on cannabis.

This policy seemed revolutionary and a tremendous step forward towards the cannabis normalization as another form of medicine, but it sadly wasn’t meant to be due to the very same regulators that these pharmacies have dealt with for decades.

When their offices heard word about licensed pharmacies selling cannabis products, the Drug Enforcement Agency directly reached out to the owners of those pharmacies and strongly informed them that selling cannabis products is a federal crime. One of the most archaic yet important reasons that the Georgia DEA office sent the statement they did is because of cannabis remaining a Schedule I group and that status wouldn’t change easily.

Even decades after the glory days of cannabis prohibition and well within the first few flourishing  years of cannabis legalization, cannabis is still a Schedule I substance and considered both dangerously addictive and without any medical uses. This clause entirely disregards the current era, as medical cannabis is legal in one form or another in the overwhelming majority of states.

Worse even for the applicants and independent pharmacies that had ambitions of selling this cannabis oil, The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission is unable to override any federal ban on cannabis sales in pharmacies. This means that even if Georgia legalizing medical cannabis oil is a step in the right direction, the DEA is ultimate authority as they’re part of the federal government, an all-encompassing goliath that won’t warm up to large-scale cannabis reform until the average age of our elected leadership lowers.





Aaron Pelley

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