Georgia Cannabis Laws
Is Cannabis Legal In Georgia?
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Is recreational cannabis legal in Georgia?
No. Georgia remains one of the most conservative states, with the harshest cannabis penalties for possession. While the city of Atlanta voted to decriminalize an ounce or less of cannabis in 2017, anything more is illegal and can result in a year of jail time and excessive misdemeanor charges.
Is Medical Marijuana legal in Georgia?
Yes and No. Full-strength Medical Marijuana is currently illegal in Georgia.
HB 1 Haleigh’s Hope Act, signed in 2015, made legal the use of up to 20 oz of cannabis oil that contains at most 5% THC for patients with specific illnesses. That list controversially expanded to patients with PTSD and severe pain last year. Unfortunately, since this bill was signed, there are still no state-licensed MMJ facilities for patients to purchase from within the state. There are over 14,000 registered Georgian patients that have been forced to find treatment out of state for the past 6 years.
Finally, late last year, due to the overwhelming demand, Georgia finally starting accepting applications for cannabis manufacturers. The new governing board, in charge of licensing, growing, testing, and distributing MMJ held its first meeting, hopeful to get treatment to patients soon.
Are CBD products legal in Georgia?
Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States; as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC.
Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.
Georgia’s Cannabis Timeline:
1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.
1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession.
1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth”.) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.
Classification of Controlled Substances:
Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use
Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use
Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
1980: Georgia passed a legal medical marijuana program. Even though the legislation passed in both the state Senate and House, the medical marijuana program ended without ever supplying cannabis to a patient. Georgia then remained stingy with legalization bills until the passing of HB1 in 2015.
1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins”.
1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.
2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.
2015: Georgia‘s HB 1, Haleigh’s Hope Act, is named after Haleigh Cox, a young girl with intractable epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy. Through her many illnesses contracted from a difficult pregnancy including Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Type-1 diabetes, she suffered many seizures and failed through tens of anti-epileptic drugs. After moving to Colorado to receive cannabis oil treatments, she had her first seizure-free day. The Cox family still living in Colorado where cannabis is decriminalized, hoped to return to their home state of Georgia. Haleigh’s Hope Act was the solution. From the 2015 signing of Georgia State House Bill 1, the Cox family was able to return home and give their daughter a more manageable life with the ability to treat her with cannabis oil with at most 5% THC.
2017: Georgia Cannabis penalties reduced. October 2017, Atlanta City Council voted 15–0 to reduce the penalty for up to one ounce of cannabis to a $75 fine. Other Georgia districts that have decriminalized and lessened cannabis penalties include Chamblee, Clarkston, Forest Park, Kingsland, Macon-Bibb County, Statesboro, South Fulton, and Savannah.
2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.
2020: Georgia started accepting medical marijuana manufacturer applications.