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Cannabis farming a legitimate business in Georgia?

Hemp growing in Georgia

By Elaine Owen, Editor

Cultivation, manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana products will likely be considered by the Georgia General Assembly during its 2019 legislative session, which begins next month. Georgia has allowed patients to use medical marijuana since 2015, but state law still prohibits buying, selling or transporting it.

A House study committee voted unanimously last week to allow farming of hemp that could be processed into droplets, capsules and creams that are already widely available to the public in nutrition stores but imported to Georgia from other states. Cannabidiol–also called CBD–is legal in the United States if it contains less than 0.3 percent THC, the main psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

A separate proposal from a joint House and Senate study committee would set up regulations for growing and selling a more potent cannabis product, low THC oil, which could be used by patients suffering from severe seizures, intractable pain, deadly cancer and other ailments. Georgia’s medical marijuana law allows up to 5 percent THC, but it doesn’t provide any legal way to obtain it.

“Hemp is cannabis. Cannabis is marijuana. Marijuana is a drug,” state Rep. Dominic LaRiccia, a Republican from Douglas, told the House Study Committee on Industrial Hemp Production. “The most significant unintentional negative consequence in dealing with hemp is the likelihood of lessening or undervaluing what the drug of marijuana can or will do.”

Just last week Congress passed a farm bill that would legalize production of industrial hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC. The bill could receive a vote in Washington this week, and if signed into law, states such as Georgia could set up regulations for standards, testing and licensing fees.

“It’s got the potential to be a big industry,” said state Rep. John Corbett, a Republican from Lake Park and the study committee’s chairman. “There might be years where hemp will give farmers an option to plant something that will generate income for them” besides corn, cotton, blueberries or soybeans.