By: William C. Head and Larry Kohn, with Top Lawyer Ratings from Best Lawyers in America
Georgia marijuana laws are complex and offer many pitfalls for a novice drug defense lawyer. Because a criminal possession of marijuana charge can be felony or misdemeanor, hiring a criminal law expert in defending crimes involving drugs laws in Georgia is imperative. Marijuana legalization is a long way from being approved in the State of Georgia, especially after the 2018 election results.
Whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony charge related to a crime involving possession of marijuana, you should immediately contact a qualified Georgia marijuana attorney near me. Proximity is not as important, however, as experience and past success in getting outstanding results for clients. This article explains the legitimate attorney ratings services and which “sales pitches” from a criminal defense lawyer Atlanta to avoid.
Is Marijuana Legal in Georgia?
The answer in 2019 is NO. While public polls and Georgia news media outlets are pushing for the Peach State to legalize personal use of weed and boost tax revenues, the ultra-conservative Georgia Legislature drags its feet each year. Georgia’s medical marijuana law (House Bill 1, also called “Haleigh’s Hope Act,”) for legalizing cannabis oil (low THC oil) is rated as among the nation’s most useless and conservative legalization programs.
New state laws in Colorado, California, Washington and other states have authorized businesses to engage marijuana manufacturing and created billions in new tax revenues. Georgia law has only changed recently for very few, restrictive medical uses, but has been unrelenting on personal use laws for small amounts of marijuana. The Georgia Department of Public Health has a cumbersome application process for even this limited use.
Many recreational marijuana users in Georgia mistakenly believe that a person charged with a first offense marijuana possession charge may receive nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Nothing is further from the truth, especially if the crime involves a felony amount of weed, or circumstances pointing to possession with intent to distribute.
Marijuana possession is a serious crime and the potential penalty for possession of marijuana will shock you with its harshness. Read further below.
Is Marijuana a Controlled Substance?
YES. Under provisions of O.C.G.A. §16-13-1, marijuana is one of thousands of substances regulated under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. While numerous other drugs are considered a scheduled substance, weed is not part of Georgia’s drug schedules. From a definitional standpoint, OCGA 16-13-1(a)(1) states that the term “controlled substance” includes marijuana.
Georgia Possession of Marijuana Penalties: Felony vs Misdemeanor
In Georgia drug cases when a possession of marijuana charge is being alleged, the prosecutor will either accuse you of a misdemeanor or a felony marijuana charge. The crux of this charging decision is based on how much marijuana was found in your possession.
Is Possession of Marijuana a Criminal Offense?
Yes, except in some cities in Georgia that have made possession of small quantities an infraction, within those cities. In other areas of Georgia, possessing less than one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense. The punishment for misdemeanor marijuana possession is up to one year of jail time and fines of up to $1,000 plus surcharges.
In 2019, one year in jail for possession less than an ounce of weed would be very rare, and likely only be imposed by a Judge who thought Richard Nixon was right about the dangers of cannabis.
Plus, a judge can allow straight probation in lieu of a jail sentence, since no mandatory minimum sentencing for a GA marijuana misdemeanor offence is part of Georgia drugs laws. Plus, some cities, like Savannah and the City of Atlanta, have de-criminalized these small quantities of weed plus offers the Atlanta PTIT program for diversion for first offenders.
What Kind of Jail Time Do I Face for Felony Marijuana Charges in Georgia?
If you are arrested for possessing one or more ounces of marijuana, you will be charged with a felony in Georgia. The punishment for felony possession includes from 1-10 years in prison, along with hefty fines. Georgia laws do permit a negotiated plea to deescalate this from a felony to a misdemeanor, under O.C.G.A. For decades, racial disparities in sentencing on drug possession charges have existed in America, but (during his two terms) former Governor Nathan Deal pushed through many positive changes in Georgia laws to help correct this unfair practice.
If you are arrested for marijuana possession within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, park, or drug-free commercial zone, you face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. For a second marijuana possession offense in Georgia, you will spend 5-40 years in prison and pay fines of up to $40,000.
Marijuana trafficking occurs when 10 pounds or more are found in your possession, and the circumstances of your arrest (e.g., selling, delivering, manufacturing, or bringing into the State of Georgia from another state) are covered by O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31(c). A fine of $100,000 is called for, too.
Manufacturing marijuana in such quantities is also covered by this severely-punished law. When quantities of 10 to 2,000 pounds are involved, a five-year state prison term is the posted minimum. However, unlike inflexible federal laws, the criminal justice attorneys for a client under the first offender act (and who is not the kingpin) can reduce the punishment called for by this felony Georgia marijuana law.
Is a Person’s Driver License Suspended for Marijuana Possession?
Prior to 2016, a person’s Georgia driver’s license was suspended even if the person’s marijuana arrest did not involve operating a motor vehicle. New provisions of OCGA 40-5-75 (g)(1) corrected this unfair taking of a person’s driver’s license, which is another criminal justice reform enacted under Governor Nathan Deal.
Suspension DOES occur if the person is convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana, under OCGA 40-6-391 for DUI drugs. Regardless of whether under subsections (a)(2), (a)(4) or (a)(6), the first offense DUI driver loses the right to drive for 6 months, and a second offender (2nd DUI in 5 years) will lose all driving privileges for three years.
Unfortunately, in addition to penalties inside the courtroom, you will also face hardships outside the courtroom if you are convicted of marijuana possession in Georgia. It may be hard for you to find a job, be accepted for college or trade school, obtain life insurance or even get loans for a car or house.
That is why it is important to contact your Georgia criminal defense attorney right away. For those in metropolitan Atlanta, our law office has lawyers near me for a FREE lawyer consultation and initial FREE legal advice. Our criminal law attorneys can answer your specific questions and review with you why you are being charged with either a misdemeanor or the more serious crime of a felony possession of marijuana, trafficking or possession with intent to distribute.
Factors Relating To Marijuana Charges and Punishment Alternatives
Sometimes Georgia police find such a small amount of marijuana in a person’s possession (typically less than one ounce) that’s it is not worth the prosecution’s time to take you to court. Instead, you may face a fine or the charge against you may be dismissed.
Obviously, the more marijuana you were found with, the harsher the penalties will be including increased jail time, fines, community service, drug counseling and even electronic monitoring. In some cases, police find such a large quantity of marijuana that the prosecution may try to charge a person with the intent to sell or distribute drugs—and this is a more severe crime than drug possession.
In addition to the amount of marijuana you were allegedly found with, the prosecution will also review your criminal history. If you have any previous drug convictions, you’ll face even harsher penalties—just another reason to have an experienced marijuana possession lawyer in Georgia on your side! It is also a serious crime to possess marijuana on school grounds or to have been found with drug paraphernalia.
Let an Experienced Georgia Marijuana Possession Attorney Help You Fight Marijuana Charges in GA
Being charged with possession in Georgia is extremely serious when a felony is involved. The effect on jobs, travel to other countries and a host of other consequences can alter your future. Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. It is the job of your criminal defense attorney Atlanta to protect your rights.
One of our partners is a highly-regarded criminal lawyer and ex-police officer. Cory E. Yager has achieved more accolades and lawyer rations in his 11-year legal career than any other Georgia attorney.
For a FREE lawyer consultation with one of our PARTNERS, call us 24 hours a day at 404-567-5515. Our criminal attorneys have an experienced Georgia drug attorney near me that specializes in this complex area of criminal defense law. Depending on your case facts, our lawyers in Atlanta may be able to get the criminal charge against you reduced, diverted, deferred or even dismissed!
Georgia Criminal Defense Practice Areas of Our Firm:
Assault and Simple Assault
Georgia State Marijuana Laws on THC Oil
DOWNTOWN ATLANTA GA LOCATION (about 3/4 mile away from the Fulton County Courthouse and Within a 10-Minute Walk):
235 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
MAIN LAW OFFICE IN SANDY SPRINGS, GEORGIA (where I-285 Crosses Roswell Road):
5590 Roswell Road
Sandy Springs, GA 30342
MARIETTA, COBB COUNTY LOCATION (A 3-Minute Walk to Cobb State Court and a 5-Minute Walk to Cobb County Superior Court):
109 Anderson Street
Marietta, GA 30060
ALPHARETTA-ROSWELL-MILTON LOCATIONS in North Fulton County:
1001 Cambridge Square
Alpharetta, GA 30009
Other Links Provided by Our Georgia Marijuana Attorneys
- Cultivation of Marijuana
- Possession with Intent to Distribute under Georgia Marijuana Laws
- More information about Drug Trafficking for Larger Quantities of Marijuana
CALL our three Georgia SUPERLAWYERS TODAY! Call us on weekends and holidays, so that our attorneys in Atlanta can help RELIEVE YOUR STRESS.