Georgia Governor Signs Bill Establishing Licensing Requirements To Grow Hemp

High Times
Thu, May 2

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed a legislative package on Tuesday, which his office described as “focused on supporting Georgia’s ever growing agricultural industry and improving security against foreign adversaries.”

The package, per the governor’s office, “tackles ownership of agricultural land or land near military installations by certain individuals acting as an agent of a foreign adversary, alleviates high input costs for our farmers and ranchers, protects children from misleading and dangerous marketing, and increases the penalty for livestock theft.”

“As valued members of our state’s number one industry, Georgia’s farming families deserve our enduring support as they face unprecedented challenges, including having to navigate disastrous federal energy policies, attempts by foreign adversaries to acquire farm land, and theft of property,” Kemp said in a statement. “We are tackling these challenges head on, and I want to thank our legislative partners for their work on these important issues.”

One of the measures, SB 494, “makes changes to the framework for hemp regulation in Georgia to allow the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) to have greater oversight and enforcement power and adds labeling, packaging, and marketing requirements to protect children from misleading and dangerous marketing,” according to the governor’s office.

Specifically, the bill “establishes licensing requirements for growing hemp as well as manufacturing and selling low-THC hemp products,” and “also limits the possession and sale of hemp products to adults at least 21 years of age,” according to the Capitol Beat News Service.

The outlet described hemp farming in Georgia as “a fast-growing industry.”

“The vast majority of the jobs and the vast majority of the investment that have been created by these great private-sector companies … have been located outside the metro-Atlanta counties, creating opportunities for Georgians to succeed no matter what their zip code,” Kemp said at signing ceremony on Tuesday, as quoted by Capitol Beat News Service.

Like many other states, Georgia took the step to legalize hemp farming following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which made hemp-derived products legal under federal law.

Recreational cannabis remains illegal in the Peach State, but lawmakers there legalized medical cannabis treatment in 2015 with the passage of Haleigh’s Hope Act, which permitted eligible patients access to low-THC cannabis oil.

In 2019, the Georgia General Assembly passed another measure that authorized “the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee the regulated licensing of limited, in-state cultivation, production, manufacturing, and sale of low-THC oil as well as dispensing to registered patients on the state’s Low-THC Oil Registry,” according to the state Access to Medical Cannabis Commission’s official website.

That bill was signed into law by Kemp.

The governor’s office said that although the package of bills signed into law on Tuesday “primarily focused on agriculture-related issues, it also addresses career burnout among healthcare professionals and goes after those who are distributing fentanyl-laced medications or controlled substances.”

SB 465, for example, “targets those involved in distributing fentanyl-laced medications to unknowing consumers by creating the offense of aggravated involuntary manslaughter for persons who manufacture or sell an apparent controlled substance that contains fentanyl and cause the fentanyl overdose death of another,” and “also establishes a criminal penalty for unregulated persons to possess a pill press, tableting machine, encapsulating machine, or other materials used to manufacture controlled or counterfeit substances.”

SB 420 “prohibits the ownership or acquisition of agricultural land or non-residential land within a radius of a military location by a nonresident alien acting as an agent of a government designated as a foreign adversary, entity domiciled/majorly owned in certain countries, or governments of countries designated as a foreign adversary by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce,” while SB 340 “adds diesel exhaust fluid (for agricultural uses only) to the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE) – alleviating high input costs for our farmers and ranchers.”

HB 455 “requires that professional programs established to address career fatigue and wellness in healthcare professionals are not obligated to report information on individual cases to the respective licensing boards unless they are determined to not be competent to continue to practice or are a danger to themselves or others,” while HB 1335 “adjusts staffing requirements in personal care homes, assisted living communities, and memory care centers by ensuring that no fewer than two on-site direct care staff are present on the premise at all times with at least one staff person on each floor. If the personal care home has implemented a medical alert system and each resident is provided a wearable device that connects to such system, then the staff person may move about the premises as necessary.”