by Dave Williams | 09/13/2021 | Capitol Beat news service

ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Agriculture should play a role in the state’s young medical marijuana program, a member of a legislative oversight committee said Monday.

“It’s an agricultural product. We’re an agrarian state, “said Georgia Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville, during the inaugural meeting of the Medical Cannabis Commission’s oversight committee. “It’s a good thing to include them in the future.”

Gravley was the main sponsor of legislation that the General Assembly passed two years ago to create a state commission to license companies to grow marijuana and convert the leaf crop into low-THC cannabis oil.

The oil is said to treat patients with a variety of diseases, including cancer, seizures, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, mitochondrial disease, and sickle cell anemia.

The 2019 law also established a legislative oversight committee to oversee the program. However, the Supervisory Board did not meet for the first time until Monday due to delays experienced by the Commission from seven Member States in implementing the program.

It took the Commission up to this summer to license six companies to manufacture cannabis oil.

Two “Class 1” licensees are authorized to grow marijuana under close supervision over an area of ​​up to 100,000 square feet. Four other companies received “Class 2” licenses that limited them to no more than 50,000 square feet of acreage.

While Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was a strong supporter of the state’s hemp growing program, he was cool about Peach State’s entry into the cannabis oil business.

However, with Black now seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate next year, Georgia is likely to have a new head of agriculture after the 2022 elections.

Rep. Sam Watson, R-Moultrie, said the Utah Department of Agriculture was playing an active role in that state’s cannabis oil program, which Georgia is pursuing as a model.

Both states only allow low levels of THC in cannabis oil, well below levels that would make a user high, and both states allow recreational marijuana use.

Watson said the Department of Agriculture’s involvement in Georgia’s program was “definitely a conversation to have”.

The Commission has meanwhile processed responses to seven protests from companies whose bids for Class 1 licenses were rejected and 14 protests from bidders who were rejected for Class 2 licenses.

While this process continues, Gravley said the oversight committee should act as soon as possible to identify laboratories that can test licensees’ cannabis oil for quality and low THC compliance.

“It would be a good thing to have a variety of laboratories available to breeders,” he said. “There are those who need this oil.”