A new marijuana bill passed, but will Georgia universities start growing pot?

Medical marijuana patients in Georgia might in the next few years be able to get their medicine without it crossing state lines.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Wednesday a bill that would allow marijuana to be grown and sold in the form of low-potency THC oil to the nearly 10,000 Georgians who are registered medical marijuana patients.

The new law also closes a loophole in a 2015 law that, while allowing certain patients to possess the oil substance, banned growing, buying and selling it. In-state cultivation would make getting the oil easier for patients, though the federal prohibition would remain.

Up to six private companies will be able to apply to grow cannabis, according to the law. It also gives state permission to grow and manufacture medical cannabis to two colleges: Fort Valley State University and the University of Georgia. The schools also may apply for federal licenses to become medical marijuana research schools.

It is unclear what the new law could mean for Fort Valley State University. Asked whether the school would pursue plans to grow cannabis, university spokeswoman Teresa Southern said, “at this time we have no comment regarding this matter.”

A University of Georgia spokesman referred comment to the University System of Georgia. Jen Ryan, spokeswoman for the system, said it is “reviewing the legislation and will work closely with the governor’s office, our institutions and other stakeholders regarding implementation of the law.”

For the past 50 years, the University of Mississippi has been the country’s sole marijuana research school. Though the Drug Enforcement Agency announced in August 2016 it would support the same research opportunity to other qualified institutions, there had been no new registrations as of December.

The DEA considers marijuana a Schedule I substance, a classification that also includes heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote, all of which are “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to the DEA’s website.

Georgia law currently allows individuals with 16 specific conditions, including cancer, seizure disorders and Parkinson’s disease, to possess low-potency oil.

Gov. Nathan Deal made public his opposition to growing pot in Georgia in 2015.

However, Kemp called the new law a “carefully balanced” measure, saying it would expand access for patients in need without opening the door to recreational drug use.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Related stories from Macon Telegraph