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Pharmacies, Medical Marijuana in Georgia Lead to Fed Conflict

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medical marijuana in georgia, medical cannabis in georgia, conflict between federal and state law

ATLANTA (420CanNews)—Federal drug officials are warning Georgia lawmakers to halt their plans to allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana, citing conflicts with federal law. The move complicates the state’s pioneering efforts to expand access to medical marijuana in Georgia through local pharmacies.

Georgia’s Move to Expand Medical Marijuana Access

In October 2023, Georgia became the first U.S. state to permit pharmacies to sell low-dose medical marijuana products. The Georgia Board of Pharmacy began accepting applications and issued licenses to 23 independent pharmacies across the state.

This policy was part of the state’s expanding access to medical cannabis in Georgia for eligible patients. Since 2015, Georgia has allowed limited legal use of medical marijuana oils containing up to 5% of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for treating severe illnesses. However, until recently, there were no legal avenues for patients to purchase these products in-state.

Federal Roadblocks

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a memorandum on November 27, 2023, advising pharmacies that dispensing any marijuana products violates federal law. The DEA considers any cannabis-derived products containing over 0.3% THC to be federally illegal.

According to the state’s medical cannabis commission, Georgia cannot override this federal directive despite state laws that permit pharmacies to sell medical marijuana. This leaves the 23 licensed pharmacies in legal jeopardy for handling federally banned substances.

State vs. Federal Law

The core conflict stems from differing state and federal regulations on what constitutes marijuana. Georgia law permits the use of low-THC oils with up to 5% THC for eligible medical patients, while federal law states that any cannabis product with more than 0.3% THC is illegal.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me that people can go to a dispensary and not to a pharmacy,” said Ira Katz of Little Five Points Pharmacy in Atlanta to WXIA-TV. “We would be buying it from the same growers.”

Despite Georgia legalizing limited medical cannabis access since 2015, there were no approved dispensaries until earlier this year. The state hoped that providing pharmacies with licenses to sell medical marijuana products would increase availability for patients with qualifying conditions.

In response to the DEA’s warning, the Georgia Pharmacy Association acknowledged that the “current conflict between federal and state law puts Georgia’s pharmacies in a difficult position,” but the association is now working to provide guidance to members.

Opposition and Support for Legalization

Organizations like Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which shared the DEA’s notice online, argue that the federal agency’s stance will protect consumers while more research is conducted.

“Consumers trust that drugs dispensed from pharmacies are fully tested, approved by the FDA, and federally legal. That’s not the case with medical marijuana,” said Michael Mumper, executive director of Georgians for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

However, legalization advocates contend that pharmacies should have the same ability to supply medical cannabis as dispensaries in other states.

Currently, there are growing calls to ease federal restrictions, with 24 states having already legalized recreational marijuana and 47 states with some form of legal medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Federal Stance and Potential Changes

The DEA currently categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I illegal substance with no accepted medical use, despite state actions to the contrary. However, a proposal is under consideration to move marijuana to Schedule III, recognizing its potential medical benefits.

Federal reclassification could remove roadblocks for states like Georgia seeking to expand access through pharmacies. It also underscores the shifting legal territory around medical cannabis as state-level legalization outpaces federal prohibition.

What’s Next for Medical Marijuana in Georgia?

Georgia’s stalled plan highlights the complex interplay between state and federal laws on medical marijuana access and the dilemmas it creates for pharmacies and patients. While federal policy restrains Georgia’s ambitions to expand the program, proposals to reclassify cannabis at the national level could break the deadlock.

The path forward remains uncertain. For now, the state’s pioneering pharmacy model represents an innovative approach on both a state and local level.

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— Story Filed By 420CanNews Staff

Here’s More Information on the Topic:

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