ATLANTA – The agency in charge of Georgia’s medical cannabis program has awarded the first two production licenses for a product the General Assembly legalized seven years ago but that has yet to materialize.

The Georgia Commission for Access to Medical Cannabis voted this week to award licenses to Trulieve Georgia Inc. and Biological Sciences LLC to grow marijuana and convert the leafy crop into low-THC cannabis oil for sale to patients suffering from a range of diseases.

Trulieve is building an indoor cultivation facility in Adel, while Biological Sciences will set up shop in Glennville, in Tattnall County about 65 miles west of Savannah.

The legislature tried to launch a medical cannabis program back in 2015 by legalizing possession of low-THC cannabis oil. But the law didn’t provide a legal means of obtaining the drug until 2019, when lawmakers put in place a licensing process for companies interested in getting into the medical cannabis business in Georgia.

The commission issued tentative production licenses to six companies more than a year ago, but the process quickly bogged down when losing bidders filed protests claiming the selection of winners was unfair and arbitrary.

After a bill aimed at getting the process back on track failed during this year’s legislative session, Gov. Brian Kemp set aside $150,000 from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to expedite hearings for those companies that had been denied licenses.

Officials with Florida-based Trulieve Cannabis Corp. said Wednesday the company will hit the ground running with its production license.

“The Georgia team is hard at work to begin operations as soon as possible to ensure those in need have access to Trulieve’s  line of products,” Trulieve Georgia President Lisa Pinkney said. “We’re also excited to share that Trulieve’s operation and its ancillary business partners are projected to create a wide range of jobs in the state as the business grows.”

Trulieve will have an initial allocation of five medical cannabis dispensaries in Georgia and will seek to open additional dispensaries as the patient population grows, according to a news release.

Under the 2019 law, low-THC cannabis oil may be used in Georgia to treat patients with diseases including seizure disorders, Parkinson’s disease, terminal cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and sickle-cell anemia.

To get the drug – which is available by prescription only – patients must enroll in a registry overseen by the state Department of Public Health.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams/Capitol Beat

Dave Williams is bureau chief for Capitol Beat News Service, a service of the Georgia Press Education Foundation.