**Can You Smoke Weed in Public in Georgia? **
Marijuana is illegal in Georgia for medical and recreational purposes and is listed as a controlled substance in the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. Possession of marijuana can attract a punishment of up to 40 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000,000. Furthermore, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. It is listed by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as a Schedule I substance with a high potential for abuse and without any medical benefit in the US Controlled Substances Act.
However, Georgia allows the use of low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil made from marijuana to treat some specific medical conditions. The Haleigh’s Hope Act was enacted in 2015 to allow the possession and use of not more than 20 ounces of low-THC oil by qualifying patients. Low-THC oil is an oil containing less than 5% THC on a dry weight scale and at least 5% cannabidiol (CBD). Tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive component in marijuana responsible for the high that users feel. The law mandates that the CBD content be equal to or more than the THC content.
Haleigh’s Hope Act is very limited in its scope. It does not permit patients to cultivate marijuana at home for medical needs. It also prohibits ingesting low-THC oil via food products, and it cannot be inhaled by smoking, vapor, or electronic vaping. It prohibits the possession of marijuana in plant and leaf forms. According to the Act, patients with qualifying diseases and medical conditions must be certified by physicians to be eligible for low-THC oil treatment. Medical conditions and diseases that can be treated with low-THC oil include cancer, AIDS, HIV, Crohn’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, seizure disorders, Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and intractable pain.
No, it is illegal to use cannabis for medical or recreational purposes in Georgia. The possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana is a felony in the state and penalized with a mandatory minimum of 12 months imprisonment and up to 40 years of incarceration. While possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana will attract a misdemeanor charge, a penalty of up to a year imprisonment, and a fine of $1,000. However, some cities in Georgia, including Atlanta, Athens, Forest Park, Clarkston, South Fulton, Statesboro, Stonecrest, and Savannah, have decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for recreational use.
Nevertheless, Georgia permits registered low-THC oil patients to possess and use up to 20 ounces of low-THC oil derived from marijuana. Patients and caregivers must present their low-THC oil cards to law enforcement agents if found with low-THC oil products. Moreover, medical marijuana patients from other states are allowed to use low-THC oil provided they have their medical marijuana identification cards with them and the low-THC oil contains less than 5% THC content and at least an equal amount of CBD.
The prohibition of marijuana in Georgia is in line with the status of marijuana in the US. Marijuana use became illegal in the US in 1937 after the United States Marihuana Tax Act was enacted.
A few marijuana-related Bills and Resolutions were proposed in the 2021-2022 Regular Session of the Georgia General Assembly. However, none of the marijuana-related Bills and Resolutions became law in 2022. The following are some of the Bills and Resolutions proposed in 2022:
SB 263 was introduced to the 2021-2022 regular session of the Georgia Senate. The Bill, titled “Georgia Retail Marijuana Code”, proposed regulations for retail marijuana for adults. The Bill would allow adults aged 21 years and above to legally purchase 0.25 ounces of marijuana from licensed marijuana retail outlets. It provided licensing requirements and restrictions for the state's cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and sale of marijuana. Furthermore, it outlined penalties for violators and the repeal of conflicting laws. The Bill did not pass in the Senate.
Representative David Clark sponsored this House Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia to allow the Georgia General Assembly to provide for the legalization and regulation of marijuana in the state. Furthermore, it proposed taxation on the production and sale of marijuana. It provided for the personal use of marijuana by adults aged 21 years and above and to vacate previous marijuana convictions. The Resolution would have placed a referendum on the November 2022 ballot for voters to decide on the amendment. The Resolution failed in the House.
This Senate Resolution was similar to HR 281, and it also proposed an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia for the legalization and regulation of marijuana by the Georgia General Assembly. If passed, it would have also required Georgia voters to decide on the amendment in the 2022 ballot. The Resolution did not pass in the Georgia Senate.
This Bill proposed an amendment of Georgia Controlled Substances Act by reducing the punishment for possessing specific amounts of marijuana. It would have reduced the penalty for possessing 0.5 ounce or less of marijuana to a fine of up to $300 without the option of imprisonment. It would also have made possession of between 0.5 and 2 ounces of marijuana a misdemeanor, whereas currently, possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana is a felony. The Bill did not pass in the Senate.
This Bill proposed expanding the medical marijuana program in the state from low-THC oil to full medical marijuana. It would also have increased the medical conditions for which medical marijuana therapy can be used. The Bill failed in the House.
This Bill proposed repealing the low-THC Oil law and replacing it with a comprehensive marijuana program. It expanded the medical conditions and diseases eligible for medical marijuana treatment. Furthermore, it permitted medical marijuana patients to grow up to eight marijuana plants at home and possess up to 2 ounces of medical marijuana. The Bill was not passed in the Senate.
Georgia’s Hope Act allows the GMCC to issue licenses to companies interested in producing and distributing medical marijuana products. According to the law, medical marijuana products are limited to oil, tinctures, skin patches, lotions, and tinctures. Marijuana edibles, flowers, hash, and concentrates are prohibited. The GMCC has issued licenses to marijuana producers and dispensaries, but they are yet to start operations as the regulations guiding their operations have not been finalized.
Marijuana is a regulated substance in the Georgia Controlled Substances Act though it is not a scheduled substance. The Act prescribes various penalties for marijuana-related offenses.
In Georgia, possessing up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000. The court may penalize offenders with 12 months of public works instead of imprisonment or fines. Possession of over 1 ounce of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment but with a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 months imprisonment.
However, some cities in Georgia have decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Cities like Athens, Atlanta, Forest Park, South Fulton, Clarkston, Statesboro, Savannah, and Stonecrest penalize possessing less than 1 ounce of marijuana with fines from $35 to $300. Offenders can also be sent for drug treatment or ordered to attend drug education classes.
Persons convicted of marijuana possession in Georgia but who have not been previously convicted of a drug charge in any US territory may have their sentences deferred and be placed on probation for 5 years. They may be mandated to undergo drug treatment for up to 3 years during probation. Upon completing the terms of the probation, their charges will be dismissed.
The possession of marijuana with intent to distribute is a felony in Georgia and carries the same penalties as those for the sale or delivery of marijuana. Penalties are as follows:
In Georgia, cultivation of marijuana is a felony with the following penalties:
In Georgia, marijuana paraphernalia is any material, device, or mechanism designed to plant, manufacture, harvest, analyze, produce, package, test, conceal, inhale, inject, ingest, or use marijuana. It includes bongs, pipes, tin foil, straws, razor blades, balloons, small baggies, scales, syringes, cards with drug residue, and aerosol cans. Marijuana paraphernalia possession is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 12 months imprisonment.
Possession of marijuana paraphernalia with intent to distribute also attracts a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 12 months of incarceration for first-time offenders. A second offense is classified as a high and aggravated misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to a year in prison. Subsequent offense is a felony punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment with a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year and a fine of up to $5,000.
Georgia imposes harsher penalties on hashish and concentrates than natural-form marijuana. Hashish and concentrates with more than 15% THC by volume are Schedule I substances. The following penalties apply for hash and concentrates in Georgia:
Georgia laws permit the seizure of vehicles and other properties as penalties for the illegal possession or use of marijuana. The seizing agency must initiate forfeiture proceedings within 60 days after the seizure.
In Georgia, a driver may be charged with DUI for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. It is illegal to be found with any amount of marijuana in the body when driving. As marijuana metabolites can be detected in a drug test weeks after it was last consumed, a marijuana user may be convicted of marijuana DUI days after consuming marijuana. Furthermore, all drivers with Georgia driver’s licenses must submit to chemical testing if law enforcement officers request. Marijuana DUI penalties are:
Georgia law places the following additional penalties for marijuana-related offenses:
In 2015, Georgia enacted the Haleigh’s Hope Act (House Bill 1) to permit low-THC oil to treat specific medical conditions and diseases. The Act was named after Haleigh Cox, a child with chronic seizure disorders (with up to 200 seizures in a day) who had to relocate from Georgia to Colorado for medical marijuana treatment. The Act allowed registered patients to possess up to 20 ounces of low-THC oil. However, there was no provision for low-THC oil producers and dispensaries in the Act. The Act only gave immunity from prosecution to registered patients and their caregivers. The Act also created the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission to manage the medical marijuana program in the state.
In 2017, Georgia’s Senate passed Senate Bill 16 to increase the number of diseases and medical conditions covered by the Haleigh’s Hope Act. Medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, AIDS, and Autism were added to the list of qualifying medical conditions for low-THC oil therapy. In addition, SB 16 allowed medical marijuana patients with medical marijuana cards from other states to possess low-THC oil in Georgia, provided they have not been in Georgia for more than 45 days.
In 2019, House Bill 324 was enacted to amend the Haleigh’s Hope Act and to rename the Act Georgia’s Hope Act. HB 324 provided for issuing licenses to low-THC oil producers, dispensaries, and medical marijuana cultivators. The law made provisions for Class 1 and Class 2 licenses for producing low-THC oil. Class 1 license permits the indoor cultivation of cannabis in an area of up to 10,000 square feet, while Class 2 license permits indoor cultivation of up to 50,000 square feet. Furthermore, HB 324 allowed universities in Georgia to conduct research on the therapeutic use of marijuana and partner with licensed marijuana producers in the state. The Act also prohibited physicians in Georgia from owning stakes in low-THC oil businesses.
In 2021, Senate Bill 195 was signed by the governor to expand the forms of medical marijuana that can be administered to patients. While the law initially limited low-THC oil to oils, the new law permits low-THC tinctures, capsules, skin patches, and lotions to be used by patients. However, marijuana-infused food products and edibles are still prohibited. The law also prohibits smoking or vaping marijuana. Furthermore, the law empowers the Georgia Board of Pharmacy to issue dispensary licenses in conjunction with the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission.
The following marijuana-related restrictions exist in Georgia: