DOC Weed 7 RON 1
Cannabis ambassador: Plants over pills
01:46 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

For the past year and a half, medical cannabis company CEO Gary Long has spent a lot of his time reassuring Georgia’s small-town mayors about what will soon be coming to their local pharmacy: medical marijuana.

“They think that we’re going to be selling joints out of a pharmacy or something and that’s not right,” said Long, whose company, Botanical Sciences, is one of two licensed medical cannabis production companies in Georgia.

Contrary to what anxious local leaders may think, weed sodas won’t be sold alongside the Coke Zero at their local pharmacy. But by the end of the year, people who meet the extremely narrow criteria spelled out in Georgia’s conservative medical cannabis law, are expected to have the opportunity to buy low-dose THC products at their pharmacy — a first in the United States.

The Georgia Board of Pharmacy is currently processing applications from pharmacies around the state that want to sell low-dose THC products. Under Georgia law, the THC content can only be up to 5%. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the part of the cannabis plant that produces a “high” — one of the key reasons doctors may suggest patients use medical cannabis to help with pain, nausea, insomnia and other issues. Products can include THC oil, tinctures, topicals, capsules and lozenges.

National chains such as CVS and Walmart won’t be selling THC products in Georgia, but Long said 130 local pharmacies have already agreed to sell his product exclusively. The state has more than 400 independent pharmacies and many seem interested in getting the special THC sale license, according to the professional association representing those stores. That would put 90% Georgians within a 30-minute drive from a pharmacy that could sell it, Long said.

Other states, such as Connecticut, require a pharmacist to be on staff at the dispensaries, but pharmacies do not sell the products. There are at least three states other than Georgia that have a law on the books that would allow pharmacies to sell, but they have not implemented the law, according to Andrew Turnage, the executive director of the GA Access to Medical Cannabis Commission.

Making medical cannabis so accessible in such a traditionally conservative Deep South state like Georgia caught some by surprise. Last week, after Long’s company put out a news release about how products would soon be available at pharmacies, even late night television host Jimmy Kimmel did a skit about it.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Long said of the sudden attention. Before moving into the medicinal cannabis field, he was an executive in the more buttoned-up health care technology business.

“My 20-year-old kids were like ‘Dad, you just went viral,’ And I’m like, ‘Ok, cool,’ ” Long said.

Pharmacist Jonathan Marquess said patients have been asking for this kind of access for years.