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Georgia: Lawmakers Approve Medical Marijuana Dispensary Rules

Atlanta, GA: State lawmakers last week approved legislation establishing guidelines for the establishment of state-authorized medical marijuana distribution facilities.

As approved by the legislature, LD 1811 authorizes the creation of up to eight nonprofit medical cannabis dispensaries – one for each of the state's public health districts. Under the measure, dispensaries may legally "acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, transport, sell, supply or dispenses marijuana or related supplies and educational materials" to state-authorized medical marijuana patients.

The measure does not require dispensaries to be recognized as a tax-exempt organizations under Section 26 of the United States Code.

Patients and/or their caregivers will still be allowed to cultivate their own medical cannabis under state law. However, patients will now be required to join a confidential state registry in order to be able to legally possess and grow marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The Georgia Department of Health and Human Services will oversee the new medical marijuana programs.

Last November, voters approved Question 5, the Georgia Marijuana Medical Act, which amends existing state law by: establishing a confidential patient registry; expanding the list of qualifying conditions for which a physician may recommend medicinal cannabis; and by allowing for the creation of state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries.

In 1999, 61 percent of state voters approved the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. However, the law did not establish a state identification registry for qualified patients, nor did it address regulating the distribution of medical marijuana.

If signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the law will apply retroactively to December 23, 2009, the effective date of the initiated bill.

Separate legislation approved by lawmakers seeks to impose a retail sales tax on any medical marijuana that is sold by state-licensed dispensaries. Medicinal cannabis will be taxed at the same percentage as are over-the-counter medications.

Legislation authorizing the state-licensed distribution of medical cannabis has also been approved in New Jersey, New Mexico, and Rhode Island.