With nearly 120 facilities applying to sell cannabis oil, Georgia has become the first U.S. state to allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana. This monumental move could transform the treatment landscape for patients who have been unable to access effective alternatives in the past. Although doctors are typically only able to issue recommendations for medical cannabis due to federal law restrictions, they can prescribe it for specific conditions.
New Opportunities for Local Pharmacies in Georgia
In October, the Board of Pharmacy in Georgia began accepting applications from independent pharmacies interested in dispensing low-THC cannabis oil products created by licensed producers Botanical Sciences and Trulieve. The implications of this change are enormous. If medical marijuana was available for purchase at every location, approximately 90% of Georgians would be within just a 30-minute drive of a pharmacy selling marijuana.
Pharmacists and healthcare professionals alike anticipate that allowing these distribution channels will help to destigmatize medical marijuana use while also providing patients with trusted sources for obtaining their medication. This shift represents a significant step forward in recognizing and legitimizing the therapeutic value of cannabis-based treatments for many individuals in need.
DEA Guidance Reflects Federal Government’s Stance on Medical Marijuana
Licensing and regulation of pharmacies selling medical marijuana may still face some hurdles under federal law, however. A letter from Matthew J. Strait, a Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was sent to a Georgia pharmacy informing them that DEA-registered pharmacies must adhere to federal laws and regulations – this means that they cannot possess, handle, or dispense marijuana or THC without proper authorization.
Anti-cannabis advocacy groups, such as Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), led by its president Kevin Sabet, who opposes medical marijuana use, herald this guidance as support for the federal government’s stance that marijuana is not a valid form of medicine. Nevertheless, this viewpoint conflicts with the Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation that the DEA reschedule marijuana as a Schedule III controlled substance based on its acknowledged medical benefits.
Future Regulation and Rescheduling Decisions
While the DEA endeavors to maintain control over federally registered pharmacies that dispense medical cannabis, their focus does not appear aimed at preventing patients from accessing these products entirely. Instead, the agency’s actions seem geared toward ensuring proper regulation of pharmacies licensed to sell them until a review on marijuana rescheduling is completed.
It is crucial to note that under the Controlled Substances Act, jurisdiction over drug scheduling decisions ultimately resides with the DEA – even if other health agencies advise differently. The DEA has significant influence over the classification and legal status of various substances, such as medical cannabis, that are subject to regulatory oversight across the United States.
A Promising Future for Medical Marijuana Dispensing in Georgia and Beyond
The push to allow pharmacies to distribute medical cannabis marks an important advancement in the ongoing effort to democratize access to alternative treatment options for chronic illness sufferers and others who require these specialized therapies. Georgia’s historic decision to accept applications for pharmacies to provide cannabis oil products could have a considerable impact on the broader landscape of medical marijuana distribution throughout the U.S.
Despite potential roadblocks posed by conflicting federal guidance, Georgia has positioned itself at the forefront of progressive change in the pharmaceutical industry. As more states inevitably follow suit, it is essential to continue promoting transparency, patient safety, and proper regulation alongside the continued expansion and availability of innovative, safe, and effective medical marijuana treatments.