Seven appointed to Georgia commission overseeing new medical marijuana program

Georgia’s rollout of legislation legalizing the growth of marijuana for medicinal use and the manufacture and sale of cannabis oil produced from the leaf crop can now begin, more than four months after the law took effect.

Gov. Brian Kemp has named Dr. Christopher Edwards, principal surgeon at the Atlanta Neurological & Spine Institute, to chair the seven-member Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, a panel created by the General Assembly to oversee the state’s medical marijuana program.

The governor also appointed to the commission Jason Hockenberry, an associate professor of health policy at Emory University, and small business owner Danielle Benson.

“Georgia’s Hope Act provides a critical pathway for Georgians with chronic, debilitating diseases to get the help they desperately need,” Kemp said. “I am confident that Dr. Edwards, Dr. Hockenberry and Mrs. Benson will serve with the highest level of integrity in faithfully carrying out the mission of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission.”

As stipulated in the medical cannabis bill, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan made two appointments to the commission: Dr. William Bornstein, chief medical officer at Emory Healthcare, and Dr. Judith Rochon of Kaiser Permanente. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston rounded out the panel with the appointments of William “Bill” Prather, president of the Georgia Board of Pharmacy, and Bob Starrett, chief of police in Austell, Ga.

The commissioners will serve four-year terms. The new panel is attached administratively to the Georgia secretary of state’s office.

The bill lawmakers passed last April legalizes the cultivation of marijuana in Georgia, conversion of the leaf into cannabis oil and sale of the drug to patients suffering from a wide range of diseases, including seizure disorders and Parkinson’s. The new commission also will be able to buy and import cannabis oil from out of state while the in-state program unfolds.

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