Medical Marijuana in Georgia: A Guide for Family Caregivers

Explore our guide on navigating Georgia's medical marijuana program, focusing on its benefits, legalities, and caregiver responsibilities for effective patient care.
Published on
April 15, 2024
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Caring for a loved one with chronic pain or illness can be a heartbreaking journey. When traditional treatments haven't brought the desired relief, some families explore alternative options, including medical marijuana. However, Georgia's medical marijuana program has specific guidelines, particularly for caregivers of individuals receiving Medicaid benefits. 

Understanding Georgia's Medical Marijuana Program

The Low THC Oil Registry in Georgia is a program managed by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) designed to help patients suffering from certain qualifying medical conditions legally use low THC oil, a form of medical cannabis that contains a low concentration of THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. 

The registry aims to provide patients with certain severe and chronic illnesses access to treatments that may not be available through traditional pharmaceutical drugs. Low THC oil is considered an alternative treatment under Georgia law, specifically for patients for whom other treatment options have not been effective.

The Low THC Oil Registry Card only permits the possession and use of low THC oil. The state's medical marijuana laws do not allow for the possession or sale of marijuana in plant form, nor does it permit other derivatives like edibles, vapes, or waxes that are common in other states with more expansive medical marijuana programs.

Conditions that qualify for medical marijuana use

To be eligible, patients must have one of the qualifying conditions listed in the program guidelines. These conditions include, but may not be limited to: 

  • Cancer
  • ALS
  • Seizure disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn's disease
  • Mitochondrial disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Sickle cell disease

Each condition must be severe enough to qualify under the state's criteria. 

Potential benefits of medical marijuana

Medical marijuana offers several potential health benefits to patients with certain medical conditions, including: 

  1. Pain management: Medical marijuana is commonly used to treat chronic pain and is considered a safer alternative to opiates.
  2. Reduced inflammation: CBD, a compound in cannabis, has anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial for inflammatory conditions.
  3. Neurological and mental health disorders: Medical marijuana can help alleviate symptoms of neurological and mental health conditions, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and Tourette syndrome. 
  4. Control of seizures: CBD has been shown to help control seizures. The FDA has even approved Epidiolex, a purified form of CBD, to treat seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
  5. Reduction of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: Medical marijuana is often used to help reduce nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy. It can also help improve the appetite of cancer patients undergoing treatment.
  6. Improved sleep: Cannabis may help improve sleep, which can be helpful for people who suffer from insomnia or sleep disruptions.
  7. Muscle relaxation: THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, is known for its muscle relaxant properties, which are helpful in conditions like Parkinson's disease and causes painful muscle rigidity.
  8. Potential neuroprotective properties: Research suggests that compounds in cannabis may protect the brain from damage caused by conditions like Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

Medical marijuana offers many potential benefits, but it also comes with risks and side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, and, in some cases, psychological effects like increased anxiety or paranoia. 


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Eligibility criteria

Obtaining a medical marijuana card in Georgia requires both the patient and their designated caregiver to meet specific criteria:

  • Patients must have a diagnosis of a qualifying condition verified by a licensed physician registered with the DPH.
  • Caregivers must be at least 21 years old, residents of Georgia, and have a legal relationship with the patient. You can be the patient's legal guardian (adult or minor) or a court-appointed custodian.

Medicaid beneficiaries: what to know

While Medicaid beneficiaries can participate in the program, some limitations exist. Medicaid generally doesn't cover the cost of medical marijuana or the application fees. Caregivers must verify specific details with their local Medicaid agency to understand coverage limitations.

Application process

  1. Physician consultation: A patient first undergoes a physician consultation with a physician licensed in Georgia and registered with the DPH to certify patients for the Low THC Oil Registry. The physician must determine that the patient suffers from one of the qualifying conditions and that using low-THC oil may be beneficial.
  2. Application submission: Once a physician certifies a patient, they must complete an application process. This involves submitting a signed certification from the physician, the patient's personal information, and required documentation, such as proof of Georgia residency. The cost for the Low THC Oil Registry Card is $25. This fee applies to both patients and caregivers and must be paid at the time of application or renewal. 
  3. Caregiver registration: If a patient requires a caregiver to assist with managing the low THC oil, the caregiver must also register with the DPH. Caregivers must be at least 21 years old and have a legal relationship with the patient (e.g., parent, legal guardian).

Registry card

Upon approval of the application, the DPH issues a Low THC Oil Registry Card to both the patient and their registered caregiver. This card must be presented at dispensaries authorized by the state to distribute low-THC oil. It legally permits the possession of up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil.

The card is valid for two years from the date of issue. After this period, both the patient and their caregiver must renew their cards to continue legally possessing and using low-THC oil. The renewal process typically involves re-evaluating the patient's condition with a qualified physician registered with the Georgia Department of Public Health, who must confirm that the patient still qualifies for the use of low THC oil under the state's medical marijuana program. 


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Where to legally get medical marijuana 

Georgia has a limited number of dispensaries licensed to distribute low-THC oil. You can find a list of these dispensaries on the DPH website or through your healthcare provider. Only these licensed dispensaries are permitted to sell low-THC oil, making sure that the oil meets the state's safety and THC content regulations.

Registered patients and their caregivers can possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil. Possessing any amount beyond this limit or possessing other forms of cannabis is illegal and subject to legal penalties.

Low THC oil must be used strictly as directed by a physician. It should be used only by the registered patient and only for the medical condition for which it was prescribed.

Tips for caregivers on managing medical marijuana

Administering low-THC oil

Always adhere to the dosage and frequency prescribed by the healthcare provider. This ensures the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.

Observe the patient's response to the treatment and report any adverse effects or concerns to their healthcare provider, who can adjust the treatment plan if necessary.

Storing low-THC oil

Keep the oil in a secure, locked place out of reach of children and other unauthorized individuals. This is important to prevent accidental ingestion and to maintain compliance with the law.

Store the oil in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to preserve its efficacy and shelf life.

Legal considerations and responsibilities

Keep the patient's Low THC Oil Registry Card and medical documentation readily accessible in case of legal inquiries or emergencies.

It is illegal to share medical marijuana with anyone else, even if they are a registered patient. Similarly, it is not to be used for any condition other than the one for which it was prescribed.

By following these guidelines, caregivers can ensure that they remain compliant with Georgia's medical marijuana laws while effectively supporting their loved one's health needs. This will help achieve the best possible outcome for the patient's treatment and maintain legal protection for both the patient and the caregiver.

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