Federal Drug Officials Cite Violation of Federal Law
ATLANTA — In a move that has shocked the state of Georgia, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has issued a warning, urging Georgia to abandon its plans to become the first state to allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana products. The DEA argues that dispensing medical marijuana violates federal law, sending shockwaves through the Georgia Board of Pharmacy and the 23 independent pharmacies that have already been issued licenses.
Georgia’s Medical Cannabis Commission Powerless to Override Federal Directive
The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, responsible for overseeing the state’s fledgling medical marijuana industry, acknowledges that it cannot override the federal directive despite state laws permitting pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana products. Andrew Turnage, the commission’s executive director, expressed the state’s disappointment, stating that they would have loved to see pharmacists continue to provide consultations for medical cannabis products, just as they do with other medications.
DEA Asserts Strict Limits on THC Content
In a memo to pharmacies, the DEA made it clear that they consider any products derived from the cannabis plant with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content above 0.3% to be marijuana, which is illegal under federal drug law. Georgia, on the other hand, allows patients with specific medical needs to purchase medical marijuana products with up to 5% THC. This stark difference in THC limits has sparked the conflict between state and federal law.
Pharmacists and Advocates Express Concerns
Pharmacists like Ira Katz of Little Five Points Pharmacy in Atlanta are perplexed by the DEA’s stance. He argues that pharmacies, like his own, should be able to dispense medical marijuana products just as marijuana dispensaries do. Katz questions the inconsistency, stating, “It just doesn’t make any sense to me that people can go to a dispensary and not to a pharmacy.”
Meanwhile, Michael Mumper, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Georgians for Responsible Marijuana Policy, believes that the DEA’s position protects consumers and allows for more research. Mumper argues that consumers trust drugs dispensed from pharmacies to be fully tested, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and federally legal, a standard that medical marijuana does not currently meet.
Although the federal stance on marijuana remains staunch, there may be a glimmer of hope for those advocating for looser restrictions. In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed reclassifying marijuana as a lower-risk Schedule III drug, taking it off the banned list of Schedule I substances. Should this proposal be accepted, the federal landscape surrounding marijuana could undergo significant changes.
As Georgia grapples with the conflict between state and federal law, the Georgia Pharmacy Association has assured pharmacists that they are doing everything in their power to provide timely information and assistance. The association acknowledges the difficult position pharmacies find themselves in and aims to support them as they navigate this controversial issue.