FILE - Recreational marijuana, dispensary, medical cannabis

Eligible patients in Georgia may soon be able to reap the benefits of medical marijuana with the initiation of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission.

Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston announced their appointments to the seven-member board on Tuesday. The members will oversee the issuance of licenses to grow and sell marijuana oil for the treatment of a variety of illnesses. The commission was enacted through Georgia's Hope Act, signed by Kemp in April.

“This group of citizens is now positioned to carry out the intent of this legislation by creating and executing the initial framework of this important process,” Duncan said. “A process that will ultimately deliver medicinal value to those who have been narrowly defined in the legislation and have been eagerly awaiting relief.”

Georgia's Hope allows private growers and selected universities to produce marijuana with a tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, level of 5 percent or lower. Patients with a Low THC Oil Registry card would be able to purchase up to 20 fluid ounces of the THC oil from licensed dispensaries or pharmacies. The registry was established in 2005, but the patients had no way of obtaining the licensed product in the state. 

The registry is open to patients with cancer, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, mitochondrial, sickle cell, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and AIDS among other conditions with a doctor’s referral.

The commission itself includes three doctors, a small business owner, a police chief, a health policy professor and the president of the Georgia Board of Pharmacy.

Kemp selected orthopedic surgeon Dr. Christopher Edwards as the chair of the commission. 

The governor also selected Emory University Professor Jason Hockenberry and Danielle Benson, vice president of Candid Construction Services LLC.

“I am confident that Dr. Edwards, Dr. Hockenberry, and Mrs. Benson will serve with the highest levels of integrity in faithfully carrying out the mission of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission,” Kemp said.

Duncan appointed Dr. William Bornstein, the chief medical officer, chief quality and patient safety officer for Emory Healthcare and physiatrist Dr. Judith Rochon.

Ralston named the Georgia Board of Pharmacy head, William “Bill” Prather and Austell Police Chief Bob Starrett.

“From the beginning, we have been motivated by the desire to help Georgians suffering from chronic and painful conditions,” said Speaker David Ralston. “We have acted deliberately to implement a well-regulated and tightly-controlled medical cannabis system that is safe and secure. I know both Mr. Prather’s and Chief Starrett’s professional expertise will be invaluable as this work moves forward.”

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.