Georgia has always had strict laws when it comes to the use of cannabis. However, the Peach State has made noticeable strides with cannabis laws in the past few years. In 2015, it became legal for Georgia citizens with Low THC Registry Cards to possess medical marijuana oil, while hemp and CBD products with less than 3% THC are legal to sell and possess as of 2019. Now a bill has been introduced to the Senate which includes a proposal to decriminalize marijuana throughout Georgia. Contact the Don Turner Legal Team if you have any questions about Georgia’s cannabis laws.
What is Marijuana Decriminalization?
Marijuana decriminalization is not to be confused with marijuana legalization. Decriminalization occurs when a state repeals or amends laws so that certain acts, while still considered criminal, are no longer subject to prosecution. As of this writing, recreational cannabis is not legal anywhere in Georgia, although possession of small amounts has been decriminalized in select cities and counties. You will still face some penalties if you are caught with a small amount of marijuana in these cities and counties. However, the consequences are less severe than they would be in the rest of Georgia.
Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is currently considered a misdemeanor under Georgia law and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail. Under the terms of this proposed senate bill, possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana would be punishable by a fine up to $300, with no threat of jail time. Possessing more than one ounce (but less than two ounces) would be punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail or up to a year of community service.
Note that decriminalization of marijuana does not make it legal to possess it in larger quantities, nor does it make it legal to grow or sell cannabis. Possession of more than one ounce of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while possession with intent to distribute can mean as much as 30 years in prison, depending on the quantity of marijuana in your possession. These are not charges you want to take lightly, and you need to remain aware of these laws even if simple possession is decriminalized.
What’s in Store for Cannabis’ Future?
Georgia has been historically resistant to any kind of marijuana legalization. However, public attitudes towards cannabis are slowly changing. According to a 2019 poll, 77 percent of Georgia voters support greater access to cannabis for medical use. The same poll revealed that 50 percent of respondents approve of legalizing cannabis. These numbers have been growing slowly but steadily each year, and it is having an effect on the decisions of Georgia lawmakers.
As of this writing, Georgia lawmakers are considering passing legislation that would make it legal for select certified businesses to grow cannabis for medical use and allow licensed dispensaries to sell low-THC oil to Georgia citizens with registry cards. In June of this year, a bill that would license farmers to grow hemp passed the Georgia Assembly, giving the hemp industry a more prominent foothold in Georgia. And hemp products have been legal to possess in Georgia since May of this year, although the inability to accurately distinguish between hemp and marijuana has caused some problems for law enforcement.
It may be some time before we see complete legalization of recreational cannabis in Georgia. But as the public opinion on marijuana slowly shifts, and lawmakers move to make regulated cannabinoid products accessible to the Georgia public, it is clear that times are changing. It remains to be seen whether simple possession of marijuana is decriminalized throughout Georgia, but there is a real possibility that this could happen.
Until then, remember that possessing even a small amount of marijuana for recreational use is still illegal in most parts of Georgia, and the penalties will grow even steeper if you have more than an ounce of marijuana in your possession. You need to take Georgia’s marijuana laws seriously, and you need an experienced attorney on your side if you are facing possession charges. If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, contact the Don Turner Legal Team today. Our lawyers are standing by to help and can offer both in-person and virtual consultations.