Georgia has relatively strict laws against the recreational use of marijuana. Possession of under 1 oz of flower marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by incarceration of up to 1 year or a fine of $1,000. Possession of more than 1 oz may result in a fine of $5,000 and a prison sentence between 1 year (the state’s mandatory minimum sentence) and 10 years. These penalties are similar for those who sell, cultivate, or intend to distribute under 10 lbs of marijuana. Possession of any form of THC concentrate is a felony punishable by a minimum of 1 year of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine.
Despite these harsh penalties at the state level, certain places across the state have decriminalized possession of 1 oz or less. Violators face a fine. The following jurisdictions have decriminalized marijuana:
• Augusta-Richmond County
• Doraville (as of August 2020)
• Forest Park
• Fulton County
• Macon-Bibb County
• Pine Lake (as of March 30, 2021)
• South Fulton
• Tybee Island (as of September 2021)
On November 5, 2020, the Fayetteville City Council enacted an ordinance that will treat the possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana as a city ordinance violation. Violators will no longer receive jail time, but will still receive fines: $125 fine for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. Those over the age of 21 will not have to appear in court. If the adult offender completes a court-approved substance abuse program, $150 of the fine for second and third offenses may be refunded. Those under the age of 21, but older than 18, will be required to complete a court-approved substance abuse program. Those under the age of 18 must appear in court with a parent or guardian and must complete an eight-hour, city-approved substance abuse program. The fine structure is the same for all age groups. Additionally, all individuals who participate in substance abuse programs will be assessed for cannabis use disorder.
Georgia does have a medical marijuana program that allows qualifying individuals to possess no more than 20 fl oz of cannabis oil, provided the oil contains less than 5% THC. Oil containing more than 5% is not legal nor is flower cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC.
To obtain a card allowing one to obtain low THC oil, a physician with whom the patient has a doctor-patient relationship must determine that the patient has one of the qualifying conditions. Qualifying conditions include:
• Autism spectrum disorder
• Alzheimer’s disease
• ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
• Crohn’s disease
• Epidermolysis bullosa
• Intractable pain
• Mitochondrial disease
• Multiple sclerosis
• Parkinson’s disease
• PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
• Severe or end-stage peripheral neuropathy
• Sickle cell disease
• Tourette syndrome
Additionally, some patients in hospice care may also qualify for Georgia’s Low THC Oil Registry.
To apply, the physician must then fill out a waiver form and a certification form, and then have the patient or the patient’s legal guardian countersign. The information from these forms must then be entered into Georgia’s Low THC Registry portal. Prior to entering this information, physicians must create an account with the Georgia Department of Public Health at this site: https://sendss.state.ga.us/sendss/!thc.thc_login.
Georgia does not have a reciprocity program to accommodate medical marijuana patients from out of state, but patients from other jurisdictions will be exempt from prosecution if they are found in possession of cannabis oil that contains 5% or less of THC, provided they have a registration card from their home state.
For more information, please see the website for the Georgia Department of Health: https://dph.georgia.gov/low-thc-oil-faq-general-public.