How to Open a Dispensary in Georgia

Overview

Are you wondering how to open a cannabis dispensary in Georgia? This page will keep you updated on the latest news and information about opening a cannabis business in Georgia. This includes helpful insights into what is to come for the state.

The recreational use of cannabis is against the law in Georgia, although the drug has been decriminalized in several municipalities. Cannabis oil with a THC concentration of less than 5% is permitted for a restricted number of medicinal applications.

The Georgia Senate and House of Representatives made an effort during the legislative session of 2022 to kickstart the stalled licensing process caused by lawsuits for the state’s restricted medical cannabis program. Bidders who weren’t successful in getting licenses filed lawsuits. The two Houses of the legislature continued their search for a compromise solution until the General Assembly’s session ended at midnight on April 4, 2022. Although Governor Brian Kemp has announced that he would explore taking executive action to deal with the stalemate, there have yet to be any concrete proposals presented.

On April 28th, 2023, Georgia’s first medical marijuana dispensaries opened in Macon and Marietta, after a decade-long wait. Trulieve GA, which received two dispensing licenses from the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, opened the facilities. The state requires the remaining three dispensaries to be fully operational within 120 days of their license being issued. In addition, the two licensed companies, Trulieve GA and Botanical Sciences LLC, plan to open dispensaries in Pooler and Marietta. Georgia’s medical marijuana law only allows two Class I licenses and four Class II licenses, and the issuance of Class II licenses is currently on hold due to a lawsuit. 

Local Cannabis Restrictions & Laws

The Atlanta City Council voted in October 2017 to lower the punishment for possessing up to 1 ounce of cannabis to a fine of $75. In March 2018, the Savannah City Council voted 8–1 to cut the punishment to a $150 fine.

Other local governments have taken steps to either decriminalize marijuana or reduce the severity of penalties associated with its possession or use. 

  • 2016: Clarkston 
  • 2018: Fulton County, South Fulton, Forest Park, Savannah, Kingsland, and Statesboro
  • 2019: Macon-Bibb County and Chamblee
  • 2021: Tybee Island
  • 2022: Stonecrest and Athens 

Georgia Medical Marijuana Legalization

Georgia’s Hope Act, also known as HB 324, was approved by Republican Governor Brian Kemp on April 17, 2019. Within Georgia, patients will now get access to low-THC medicinal cannabis oils (with up to 5% THC) thanks to this piece of legislation. Nevertheless, the legislation is still being implemented, and neither producers nor dispensaries have received licenses. 

Late in 2020, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission began accepting applications from prospective producers. Still, they have yet to distribute any of the six licenses offered.

After approval in 2021, SB 195 added tinctures, transdermal patches, lotions, and capsules to the list of things that can be bought, along with oils, but it did not have edible products.

The legislation governing the use of medicinal marijuana in Georgia permits some individuals who meet the requirements to lawfully carry up to 20 fluid ounces of “low THC oil” extracted from the cannabis plant. It gives the Georgia Department of Public Health the authority to issue a “Low THC Oil Registry Card” to approved individuals. Conditions that qualify for the Low THC Oil Registry are listed here. This card will demonstrate that the individual is permitted to possess the oil and will shield them from arrest if caught with it. As of March 2022, more than 20,000 Georgians with medical marijuana cards can take cannabis oil orally to treat their illnesses.

Medical Marijuana Business Opportunities

To comply with the provisions of House Bill 324, which would authorize the granting of six cannabis production licenses in Georgia, the process for applying for a cannabis license in the Peach State will be merit-based. One of the cannabis license types in Georgia is Class 1 Production, which allows for a canopy area of up to 100,000 square feet. The other license type is Class 2 Production, which provides a canopy space of up to 50,000 square feet. The holder of one of these cannabis licenses in Georgia can produce low-THC oil, which may then be sold in licensed pharmacies. 

The application for Georgia cannabis production licenses closed on January 27, 2021. However, a new mechanism may be developed to examine and perhaps re-award licenses because of litigation and a lack of openness throughout the process. 

In accordance with House Bill 324, the State Board of Pharmacy would be tasked with developing a dispensing license that would authorize pharmacies to provide patients with low-THC oil. Retail dispensaries and pharmacies must follow the guidelines that the Commission and the Board of Pharmacy will jointly develop regarding dispensing low-THC oil.

It’s anticipated that sales will go off sometime in the middle of 2023. Georgia Access has issued no medical cannabis dispensary licenses to the Medical Cannabis Commission, and the Commission has not issued guidelines for dispensaries.

Medical Cannabis License Types 

Class 1 Production License

Two licenses are available under this program, allowing a canopy of 100,000 square feet to produce low-THC oil. The application process for the Georgia Cannabis License closed on January 27, 2021.

Class 2 Production License 

40,000 square feet of canopy space and the production of low-THC oil are both authorized under this program, which grants a total of four licenses. The application process for the original Georgia Cannabis License finished on January 27, 2021.

Dispensing License

The Commission has yet to distribute any Dispensing Licenses, and it is not currently accepting new applications for these licenses at this time. The Commission has not yet issued regulations for the issuance of dispensing licenses. Any parties interested in learning more about dispensing licenses should look at Georgia law.

How much is a cannabis license in Georgia?

According to the fee schedule, here are the costs associated with opening a cannabis business in Georgia.

Class 1 Production License Fees

The application fee for a Class 1 Production License is $25,000, the license fee is $200,000, and the renewal fee is $100,000 per year.

Class 2 Production License Fees

The application fee for a Class 2 Production License is $5,000, the license fee is $100,000, and the renewal fee is $50,000 per year.

Dispensing License Fees

The Commission has yet to set the application fee, retail license fee, and renewal fee for dispensing licenses.

Administrative Fees

To process a returned check or money order, there is a processing fee of $250.

Recreational Use Legalization

In 2022, legislation intended to soften Georgia’s stringent marijuana regulations was considered after having been carried over from the previous year, 2021.

The use of cannabis by adults would have been allowed and controlled under SB 263. The proposal would have authorized purchasing up to a quarter ounce of cannabis from a retail location.

Both HR 281 and SR 165 would have put the question of marijuana legalization before the general public. Both propose to change the state constitution to make the use, possession, and retail sale of marijuana lawful for individuals over the age of 21. If the legislature passes the bill, it will put a question before the electorate of Georgia for them to decide on. These initiatives would also, if adopted by legislators and later by voters, make it easier to get some prior marijuana offenses expunged from one’s record.

SB 77 would have decreased the maximum penalty for possessing less than half an ounce of marijuana to $300.

Both HB 738 and SB 264 would have established all-encompassing medicinal cannabis programs.

In 2022, however, none of this legislation was able to pass the legislative process.

As the state expands its cannabis program, particularly the recreational program, we will keep you up-to-date on all relevant news and legislation on opening a dispensary in Georgia. By adding yourself to our Georgia Cannabis Mailing List (below), we will keep you updated on all relevant news that matters as well as not so easy to find information and comments based on Georgia legalization below. This includes but is not limited to the following:

  • How much does it cost to open a dispensary in Georgia?
  • What are the requirements to get a marijuana business license and open a dispensary in Georgia?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more…

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