After Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation into law clearing the way for production and sale of medical low-THC cannabis oil in the state, a Forsyth County group that pushed for the law is hoping to get involved with bringing aid to patients and jobs to the local area.
Compass Neuroceutical, a local company formed by county residents Dr. Scott Cooper, a neurologist at Northside Hospital, and Justin Hawkins, who has a background in biopharmaceutical sales, partnered with similar organizations this year to support the passing of House Bill 324, which would allow production of, manufacturing and dispensing of low-THC – the active ingredient in cannabis, or marijuana, plants – oils.
“I see every day in the office – and I mean really, truly every day – patients of all ages that could benefit, and it was horrific that there were substances out there that other states were using successfully and that some of my patients were acquiring illegally and that I wasn’t able to prescribe for them and help them gain access,” Cooper said.
The bill, which was signed into law on April 17, sets up a system to legally produce and distribute the low-THC oil and sets up licensing for distribution and production and allows the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University to study and produce the oil.
“With all transparency, we’re going to vie for one of the licenses,” Hawkins said. “We are looking forward to an announcement of a partnership that we think is an absolute game-changer and our potential partnership that is going to be announced coming in the next months is a leader across the entire country when it comes to this medical industry.”
Hawkins said Compass will stay based in Forsyth County and, if approved for a license by a state panel, will help develop thousands of jobs in the region.
“It’s a vertically-integrated supply chain, so [jobs] from cultivators to growing the actual plant, horticulturalists, extractors, to packaging, processing to even sales reps and the dispensaries and having the entire vertical model from having jobs paying above $50,000 to jobs part-time,” Hawkins said.
Previously, the oil was legal to prescribe or possess in the state – as long as they were less than 5 percent THC concentration and amounting to less than 20 ounces a month – but it was illegal to grow cannabis for the oil or transport the oil across state lines.
Thirty-three states have comprehensive medical marijuana programs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Georgia is one of 13 other states that allow patients to possess a lower potency form of the drug.
Under the proposal, licenses should be approved by Jan. 1, 2020 and products should be available within a year from approval. If not, the license could be revoked.
Ailments that can benefit from using the oil include cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and others. Patients will be required to have a $25 registration card from the state Department of Health.
Previously, Cooper told Forsyth County News he was confident the oils will not be used recreationally since the low-THC content means someone would have to drink 17, 20-ounce vials costing $100 each to get the same effect as smoking marijuana.
Both Cooper and Hawkins said Compass is not in favor of recreational marijuana but were happy patients could finally get some relief.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Cooper. “This is not the first year that this legislation was proposed. Georgia Hope, with whom we’ve been working closely and try to help support them in the efforts, they’ve been doing it for over five years now.”
More information about the low-THC oil is available at https://dph.georgia.gov/low-thc-oil-faq-general-public.