Despite the federal ban on the sale, use, and possession of cannabis in the U.S., in October, Georgia became the first U.S. state to allow pharmacies to sell low-dose tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products. Pursuant to statutes passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2019, certain Georgia pharmacies approved by the Georgia Board of Pharmacy, are permitted to sell low-dose THC products containing up to 5% THC, the intoxicating component found in the cannabis plant. The 5% cap is far lower than the allowable THC levels in most states.
Although national pharmacy chains such as Walgreens and CVS do not currently participate in the sale of low-dose THC products as permitted pursuant to Georgia law, 130 local pharmacies have agreed to sell low-dose THC products — but only three have begun sales as of late October. According to the professional association representing such pharmacies, at least 400 independent pharmacies have expressed interest in engaging in the sale of low-dose THC products.
Despite a successful rollout of Georgia’s medical marijuana pharmacy program, on November 27, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Diversion Control Division issued a notice to several pharmacies across Georgia warning that, “[a]ll DEA registrants, including DEA-registered pharmacies, are required to abide by all relevant federal laws and policies.” The notice went on to reiterate that, “[n]either marijuana nor THC can lawfully be possessed, handled, or dispensed by any DEA-registered pharmacy.”
The notice issued by the DEA leaves Georgia’s infantile medical marijuana program in the balance, with several pharmacies questioning their participation and engagement in the program.
One further complicating factor surrounding the DEA’s notice is a congressional appropriations rider (known as Rohrbacher-Farr) that prevents the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from expending appropriated funds to halt states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws. Federal court have interpreted Rohrbacher-Farr to prohibit the DOJ from bringing criminal drug prosecutions against certain private individuals and entities involved in a state-legal medical marijuana industry.
As of now, it is unclear how the DEA will square its notice with Rohrbacher-Farr — leaving Georgia’s budding medical marijuana program in a confused daze.
 In 2021, President Biden became the first president to propose a budget incorporating the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment. As of November 16, 2023, the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment is effective through February 2, 2024.
Our Cannabis Practice provides advice on issues related to applicable federal and state law. Marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.