What Doctors Need to Know about Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Law
What does the new law do?
Georgia’s new medical marijuana law allows certain qualified persons to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of “low THC oil,” which is derived from the marijuana plant. It authorizes the Georgia Department of Public Health to issue a “Low THC Oil Registry Card” to qualified persons, which will prove that they are authorized to have the oil and protect them from arrest.
Who is eligible for the new “Low THC Oil Registry Card”?
There are three categories of persons who may apply for the card:
(1) an adult who has one or more of the eight diseases specified in the new law, and who has been a resident of Georgia for at least one year;
(2) legal guardians of an adult who has one of the eight diseases specified in the new law, and who has been a resident of Georgia for at least one year; and
(3) parents or legal guardians of a minor child who has one or more of the eight diseases specified in the new law, and has been a resident for at least one year or was born in Georgia and is under one year of age.
What diseases are covered by the law?
The law lists eight diseases which qualify for the Low THC Oil Registry:
(1) cancer, when the disease has reached end stage, or the treatment produces related wasting illness, recalcitrant nausea and vomiting;
(2) seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries;
(3) severe or end stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease);
(4) severe or end stage multiple sclerosis,
(5) severe or end stage Parkinson's disease;
(6) severe or end stage sickle cell disease;
(7) Crohn's disease; and (8) mitochondrial disease.
How can I help someone obtain a Low THC Registry Card?
First, you must have a doctor-patient relationship with someone that you determine to have one of the eight diseases specified in the statute. Next, you will need to fill out a waiver form and certification form and have the patient, parent or legal guardian countersign. Patients or caregivers may bring you partially filled out documents or you may choose to provide them with blank forms. Keep the original waiver form for your files. Finally, you or your staff will enter the information on the certification form into the Georgia Low THC Oil Registry portal. You may choose to retain a hardcopy of the certification form if you wish, but all of the information will be maintained in the online registry and that is considered to be the official record. For more information on entering information into the portal, visit our Online Portal FAQ.
Am I required to certify an eligible patient?
No. The decision whether to certify a patient is eligible for the Low THC Registry is left entirely to your judgment. The bill does not authorize physicians to prescribe marijuana for medical use. You are merely asked to determine whether their patient meets the law’s criteria to use low THC oil.
Will I be prosecuted by Georgia or federal law enforcement for registering patients?
No. The registration process has been established by Georgia law and it does not violate any state or federal laws.
Will I lose my medical license for registering patients?
No. In fact, the Georgia Composite Medical Board established the criteria to be used for certifying patients for the Low THC Oil Registry, and approved the waiver and certification forms.
Is my registering a patient the equivalent of writing them a prescription for low THC oil?
No. The act of registering a patient is merely a certification that you have an established relationship with the patient, have examined them and determined they have one of the eight medical conditions set forth in the statute. In fact, the certification form approved by the Georgia Composite Medical Board specifically states that it is not a prescription.
How does the new law compare to laws in other states which have adopted medical marijuana?
Georgia’s law is much more limited than some other states’ medical marijuana laws. For example, it does not legalize the sale or possession of marijuana in leaf form, and it does not authorize retail stores to sell marijuana or products made from the marijuana plant. It does not authorize physicians to prescribe marijuana for medical use. It is intended solely to protect qualified persons from criminal prosecution for possessing low THC oil for medicinal purposes.
How does a patient get low THC oil?
The new law does not address how low THC oil is made, purchased or shipped. The law only creates a procedure to ensure qualified persons will be protected from prosecution for having it in their possession. The Georgia Department of Public Health does not prescribe or dispense low THC oil.