On February 9, 2023, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rachel Krause denied a motion filed by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation (GFAF) to unseal the record of the protest proceedings concerning Georgia’s application process for awarding licenses to companies that are to produce low THC oil, a form of medical cannabis, in Georgia.
The GFAF had filed a motion to unseal the record last fall, and Judge Krause held a hearing on the issue in January. She determined that the original order sealing the record issued by Judge Stephanie Howells, the Hearing Officer for the protests, on June 23, 2022, should not be set aside or undone.
Judge Krause’s order cited to a provision of Georgia’s Hope Act, O.C.G.A. § 16-12-220, which provides that the “working papers, recorded information, documents, and copies produced by, obtained by, or disclosed to the commission pursuant to the activities conducted pursuant to this part,” unless published by the Commission, “shall be confidential data and shall not be subject to” Georgia’s Open Records Act.
The order further found that no federal or Georgia law or rule overrides the Hope Act’s confidentiality provisions and that the records being sought thus could not be required to be disclosed. Several companies that were not awarded one of the six available licenses continue to challenge the application process in litigation, but one of those companies agreed that the underlying record of these matters should remain sealed.
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