Marijuana is illegal in Georgia. However, residents still smoke marijuana regularly across the state, despite its illegal status. Although a few cities have passed improved laws trying to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in their locality, possession of over an ounce of marijuana is an offense. Attempts to decriminalize the use of marijuana in Georgia for recreational and medicinal purposes have been refused repeatedly.
In 2019, Governor Brian P. Kemp signed into law a new bill called the medical marijuana bill, allowing a number of companies to manufacture low-THC oil with less than 5% by weight in Georgia. Another medical cannabis oil bill was passed in 2021, allowing the manufacture of low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products like medical cannabis extracts. The two legislative bills approved and signed by the Governor produced a highly conservative medical marijuana law to provide reprieve for ailing residents.
Georgia House Bill 1, referred to as Haleigh’s Hope Act, an act relating to low-THC oil possession under certain circumstances, was signed into law by the governor on April 16, 2015. Georgia’s medical marijuana law allows eligible patients to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil.
One can predict what benefits marijuana has for Georgia if legalized. Sales tax on the sale of commercial cannabis will generate millions of dollars in revenue for the state. This could be used to meet the needs of the people in healthcare, education, and infrastructure. Apparently, Georgia’s medical system still lacks the means for patients to access their medicinal cannabis legally. The legalization of cannabis in Georgia will create high-profile jobs across various sectors that would drive an economic renaissance.
According to FBI arrest statistics, marijuana possession accounts for a little less than 100% of all forms of marijuana arrests. Georgia ranks 6th in the United States for marijuana arrests and drug charges. From the arrest data for Georgia recorded by the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the report shows that some crimes are still connected with the use of marijuana. The FBI arrest data is based on data received from 420 law enforcement agencies in 2015. That year, drug possession accounted for 31,795 arrests. Out of this figure, marijuana possession ranked the highest, with 2,521 arrests. Also, marijuana sales arrests totaled 1,931. Between 2016 and 2022, the crime data revealed a slight increase in the number of marijuana-related arrests in Georgia.
Cannabis is illegal in Georgia. However, Georgia law permits registered patients with a valid low-THC oil registry card to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil. In this light, very few prescriptions are provided for, and usually only for critically ill people. Patients diagnosed with one or more qualifying medical conditions can apply for low-THC registry cards in Georgia. The qualifying medical conditions for a Georgia low-THC registry card include cancer, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders, and epilepsy. The card is obtained from the Department of Public Health following an application from the eligible patient’s physician. Georgia low-THC registry cards are valid for two years after the issuance date. To get this card, a licensed recommending doctor who is treating the patient submits the waiver and physician certification forms. The waiver form is signed by both the patient and the physician. To qualify for this card, a person must be an adult, a legal guardian of an adult, or a parent or legal guardian of a minor who has been a resident of Georgia for at least one year with an eligible medical condition.
Georgia is trailing on marijuana policy reform as the state still imposes jail time for cannabis possession. Statutorily, the possession or sale of any form of marijuana is still illegal. However, registered patients with valid low-THC oil registry cards are allowed to legally possess low-THC oil, a cannabis-derived product with not more than 5% THC by weight. Notably, legislation is pending regarding the legalization and regulation of the use, possession, and retail sale of marijuana in Georgia. Legislators from the Senate and House of Representatives in Georgia are still seeking to redress the stalled marijuana policy reform bill introduced in 2021 regarding improving the strict laws.
Senate Bill (SB 195), known as Georgia’s Hope Act, seeks to regulate the commercialization of marijuana in the State of Georgia. The measure would allow adults to legally purchase up to a quarter ounce of cannabis from a licensed cannabis dispensary. If signed into law, the Act would facilitate the obliteration of certain past marijuana convictions in Georgia.
House Bill 324 (HB 324), which allows low-THC oil passed the Georgia House in 2019. This was immediately enacted after being signed by Governor Brian P. Kemp. The bill allowed possession of low-THC oil for a few qualifying medical conditions but did not make provision for its cultivation or distribution within the state borders.