The attitude toward marijuana is changing across the country. A growing number of states now allow it for medicinal purposes and some have even legalized recreational use. Even the federal government is considering changing its controlled substance classification. But what about Georgia marijuana laws? Here’s what you should know about weed in the Peach State.
The Georgia Controlled Substances Act regulates the growth, sale, distribution, and possession of marijuana, THC, hash and other concentrates. While marijuana isn’t on any of the “schedules” of drugs, the law still makes the possession, growth, or distribution of marijuana illegal in almost every circumstance. However, wax, liquid cartridges, and synthetic forms of marijuana are treated differently from “tree” or leafy marijuana.
In each category, the consequences of Georgia controlled substances change depending on how much marijauna the police found, and whether the violation occurred in a school, park, housing project or other drug free zone.
Possessing less than 1oz is a misdemeanor with up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $1,000. Even without evidence of intent to distribute, the law will also punish possession of any more than one ounce as a felony. Larger quantities face even stricter penalties. For example, possessing 10 lbs of marijuana or more, even if not possessed with intent to distribute is a felony with a mandatory minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
The consequences for possessing any marijuana, even less than one ounce, with intent to distribute is a felony. Evidence of intent to distribute might include scales, sums of cash, or transaction records. Possession of even small amounts of marijuana with the intent to distribute carries a penalty from 1 to 10 year as in prison with a fine of $5,000. The penalty will change depending on the weight of marijuana found. The consequences increase based on the weight of the marijuana involved. The most severe charges are for possession of more than 10,000 lbs, and involve 15 to 30 years in prison and a penalty of $1 million.
If prosecutors can prove that you sold or delivered marijuana the penalties, even a small amount, start at 1 to 10 years with a $5,000 fine for up to 10 pounds (with a mandatory minimum of 1 year).
If the police find a marijuana grow operation in your farm, back yard, or basement, you could be charged with manufacturing. The penalty is again based on weight. However, even growing seedlings or plants with a weight of less than one ounce can be prosecuted as cultivation or manufacturing and is a felony under Georgia law. The penalties mirror the weights in sales or possession with intent cases. As of 2019, Georgia marijuana laws do allow farmers to grow hemp and other forms of cannabis for use in the production of CBD oils and other state-approved products including medicinal low-THC cannabis oil (discussed below). Thus, whether an item is hemp or marijuana can from the basis of a potential defense to a marijuana possession case.
It’s not just marijuana leaves or cigarettes that are illegal. The possession, manufacture and sale of hash or cannabis concentrates are also crimes. Punishments range from 1 to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for possession of less than 1g (solids) or 1 ml (liquids) up to 5 to 30 years for manufacturing, selling, or distributing the products. Concentrate possession is further punished based upon the amount of the substance possessed.
Georgia has not “decriminalized” recreational marijuana use like some other states have. Possession of even less than one ounce is still considered a crime. Growing marijuana, even for your personal use, or possessing more than an ounce of the drug can be charged as a felony. Some jurisdictions are merely issuing citations or are not prosecuting simple possession cases. The popular rumor is it is legal to possess marijuana. However, other jurisdictions do prosecute such violations. The simple answer is, at least under Georgia law, the possession of marijuana is still a crime and is still being prosecuted by most law enforcement agencies. Prosecution is more likely to occur in areas that are not located in the Metro Atlanta area. However, if you are found guilty of a felony with a maximum punishment of ten years or less -- which includes certain low-level marijuana offenses, your criminal defense attorney can ask the judge to impose the lower sentence of a misdemeanor.
In 2015, Georgia approved a very limited form of medical marijuana use. It allows patients diagnosed with specific conditions to possess and use up to 20 ounces of a 5% THC cannabis oil. This law applies to patients diagnosed with:
For a few years this created a strange situation where patients could legally possess the oil but no one in the state could create it or sell it. That changed in 2019 when Gov. Brian Kep signed a law allowing medical marijuana to be grown and sold. However, this is still limited to the low-TCH oil and does not allow patients to smoke weed or use higher-intensity concentrates.
If you have received marijuana charges and been summoned to appear in a Georgia courtroom you should talk to a criminal defense attorney who understands Georgia marijuana laws first. There are a number of defenses to drug charges including some that are solely based on mistakes the police may have made. These defenses can help you avoid trial all together, help reduce the charges against you, or may even help the jury reach a “not guilty” verdict. There are also diversion programs that may apply to first-time defendants.
At the McCoy Law Firm, LLC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys know how to defend against marijuana charges. We’ll help shield you from a felony conviction that could change your life. If you have been charged with a drug crime, please contact Criminal & DUI Law of Georgia so we can begin working on your case right away.