By: Cory Yager, Ex-Cop and Criminal Defense Attorney Atlanta for the Past 11 Years
If you have been arrested for marijuana possession in Georgia, or arrested for a marijuana DUI (driving under the influence of marijuana or “drugged” driving) you need skilled drug lawyers to help you. Our Georgia marijuana laws web page explains how serious the state law punishment and legal consequences can be so that you understand the need to retain the best Georgia marijuana attorneys to defend you. For many felonies, a sentence that includes years in prison is possible.
To their credit, most Georgia courts had implemented either a diversion or a conditional discharge method for settling any simple possession of marijuana in GA violations for first offenders. Some courts even let these types of sentencing alternatives apply to second offenders, when the criminal defense attorney knew how to structure that plea to a second simple possession of weed case.
Antiquated Georgia weed laws have seen recent “pushback” from several sources of reasoned discussion and dialogue. First, families of very ill children and other relatives have joined forces to pass medical marijuana laws in GA. Cox Media Group and writer Mark Niesse of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have written three articles pointing out the imperfect legislation for medical marijuana patients in Georgia. In 2019, new Governor Brian Kemp signed a new law for allowing a minimal number of private companies to manufacture cannabis in Georgia.
The two legislative bills from 2017 and 2018 approved by the Legislature and signed by Governor Nathan Deal produced a highly conservative and flawed set of medical marijuana statutes to provide relief for their ailing family members. Another bill was passed in 2016, allowing for lower THC medical cannabis oil for a very restrictive list of medical conditions. This progression of new laws gives hope that Georgia will ONE DAY have billions of dollars in tax revenues from taxing cannabis.
Penalties for marijuana possession in Atlanta have “gone against the grain” for weed laws in Georgia. Following the lead of progressive areas like Portland, Maine, Atlanta has said “NO” to adding criminal records for teens and young adults using cannabis in small amounts.
So, as of October 3, 2017, penalties for marijuana possession in Atlanta GA for personal use of pot have been minimized to a monetary fine. The city of Atlanta has decriminalized recreational marijuana possession when a person is detected with less than an ounce of marijuana. This decriminalization is applicable for all of the capital city, located within parts of Fulton County GA and DeKalb County GA.
Recreational marijuana in Atlanta now only carries a fine, regardless of how many times the person is caught. No criminal record is thereby created, and the person is released on a citation to come to court or to pay the fine online. For deterrence purposes, repeat offenders face higher fines, and (if violations continue) a 4th offense can carry jail time.
Another new municipality, the City of South Fulton County, followed this plan on March 23, 2018. Then, Fulton County made the new non-criminal law a countywide law on June 7, 2018.
Third, progressive legislators from BOTH parties who are interested in seeing our state shed its “backward” approach to marijuana, have started pushing out information about all of the tax revenue and local business enterprise being lost in the Peach State to other states by NOT creating more reasonable Georgia pot laws.
Georgia Cannabis Laws and Marijuana Criminal Charges
Is Marijuana Legal in Georgia? Except for a very restrictive and cumbersome medical marijuana statute, the State of Georgia has criminalized marijuana possession for any other purposes. Selling, buying, using, and growing marijuana are all illegal activities. If you are convicted of a marijuana charge, you can be sentenced to jail time and a large fine. You can also be suspended from driving, even if your arrest was not in a vehicle. The severity of the sentence depends on several factors.
Quantity is one element that is considered during sentencing. The more marijuana you have in your possession when arrested, the harsher the punishment. Selling marijuana or marijuana possession with intent to distribute or growing marijuana can also lead to a more severe penalty. The location of where you’re accused of a marijuana crime is also an important consideration. A conviction for sale of drugs near a school will garner more serious punishment.
If you have had one or more prior marijuana convictions, you may spend more time in jail or pay even larger fines, thereby making it important that a marijuana attorney in Georgia is contacted.
Georgia DUI Marijuana Penalties
Being arrested for DUI in Georgia is a shocking experience. Poorly considered, untargeted, and outdated laws are still on the books. For DUI drugs cases, both the state of Georgia and many other states (e.g., West Virginia) impose considerably tougher penalties for drug-impaired driving than alcohol-impaired driving.
For example, consider Georgia’s nonsensical implied consent laws relating to a DUI refusal to submit to a post-arrest blood or urine test for drugs. Under our ALS laws, for a person who refuses to take an implied consent test, a 2017 law was passed to permit limited driving privileges for a first offense DUI, if an interlock was installed for a full year.
Plus, when an officer suspects ONLY marijuana as the impairing substance, and cuffs that alleged intoxicated driver for DUI weed, our new ignition interlock device law under 40-5-64.1 requires a 12-month ALCOHOL ignition interlock device to be installed for that driver to be able to obtain limited driving privileges for his or her refusal. Does that make any sense to test for a substance that was not even involved in the marijuana DUI arrest?
Thus, the reasonable ADMINISTRATIVE penalties for marijuana possession in Georgia do NOT extend to a DUI case for which marijuana is the impairing substance. For the CRIMINAL case, a very harsh TOTAL license suspension is statutorily mandated, with six months of “hard suspension” for a first offense in ten years and three years of “hard suspension” as part of the mandatory criminal law punishment for a second marijuana (or other drug) conviction in Georgia, within ten years.
GA DUI Marijuana Arrest Statistics
There are far more drug-related arrests (including non-violent marijuana offenders) than there are arrests for serious, violent crimes such as murder, armed robbery, domestic violence, and sex crimes. Since marijuana was deemed illegal by our federal government in 1937, the number of arrests continues to rise—especially in the wake of the war on drugs that Richard Nixon concocted in direct contradiction to medical science and his advisors recommending a minor penalty and drug classification.
And even more surprising, is that nearly half of the people arrested for drugs are arrested for marijuana in Georgia. So even though you may think that marijuana use is not deemed as serious a drug offense as cocaine or heroin, our justice system is arresting someone found with this drug about every 40 seconds. This fact is just one of the many reasons why you need an experienced criminal attorney near me that specializes in defense of marijuana drug charges.
Hiring an Experienced Georgia Marijuana Attorney
This area of law is very specialized, and you should only hire an attorney that has a record of defending those charged with a marijuana drug crime. If you are convicted of a marijuana crime that is a felony, it is likely you’ll be sent to jail or a state prison facility and will face expensive fines. But with the right defense attorney in your corner, you may be able to have your drug charge reduced, negotiated to a lesser offense or even dismissed.
Our law firm offers you a FREE lawyer consultation near me at one of our four metro Atlanta offices. You will be speaking to a partner, not an associate. In addition to the author, Cory Yager, Larry Kohn, and William Head are available to meet with you and start finding solutions for you. Call us 24-7, since we try to accept or return calls immediately. Dial 404-567-5515 now.
If you have had any other drug possession charges on your record, this is just one more reason to hire an experienced Georgia marijuana attorney. Remember, being convicted of a marijuana charge is a life-changing event.