Bill that would have removed secrecy around Georgia Cannabis Commission fails

A medical marijuana bill that would have removed the secrecy surrounding the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission and given more companies a chance to grow and sell medical marijuana failed in the Georgia Senate on Wednesday night.

The vote came in the final hours of the 2023 session.

"No more secrecy when it comes to business. No more secrecy when it comes to the bureaucracy," said state Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele. 

It was a brutal, brass knuckles legislative fight in the final hours of the 2023 session.

"Makes us look like a bunch of clowns for passing something without any deliberations at all," shot back state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens.

Senators were handed a last day newly written 54-page medical marijuana and hemp bill that would abolish the current commission, strip away the shroud of secrecy surrounding the industry, and give the Georgia Agriculture Commissioner the power to approve as many as 20 companies a chance to grow and sell medical marijuana.

"It is time to get off the pot and deliver what we promised a long time ago," said state Sen. Summers.

Last year, the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission awarded potentially lucrative licenses to six companies to grow and sell medical marijuana.

For two years, the FOX 5 I-Team has investigated the awarding of medical marijuana licenses in Georgia and exposed controversial corporate backgrounds involving four of the winning bidders.

The I-Team also reported how thousands of pages of winning bids, by law, were redacted and kept secret from losing bidders, the public, and the media.

But, after a fierce back and forth debate, the motion to revamp Georgia’s medical cannabis industry lost by only one vote.

Report: "Who do you think wanted this killed?"

State Rep. Alan Powell: "Two companies were given a monopoly." 

The Hartwell Republican’s bill would have made the medical cannabis industry in Georgia open and transparent. Powell says for now, while four winning bidders are tied up in court, only two powerful and politically connected companies can move forward.

"The people on the registry and all the people who will get on the registry, they are the one who are losers in the state tonight," said Rep. Powell Wednesday evening as it neared midnight.

Not so, says lawyers for those two companies, Trulieve and Botanical Sciences. Both companies are already up and running and vow to have medical marijuana ready for 26,000 patients on the registry by this summer.