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Georgia’s changing views on marijuana: Could it become legal?

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2019 | Criminal Defense

There are widespread movements across the nation to legalize marijuana. So far, only 11 states have fully legalized its recreational use. The other 39 states cover a wide range, from completely illegal to only legalized medical marijuana.

Georgia falls somewhere in the middle. In April, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill to legalize the growth and sale of medical marijuana. Medical patients could already use medical marijuana, but now the law gives them easier access.

The use, growth or possession of marijuana without a medical purpose is still considered a crime. However, that perspective might be changing slowly.

Marijuana possession is still a crime

Georgia has some of the strictest marijuana laws in the nation. Generally, possessing one ounce of marijuana can lead to:

  • A misdemeanor charge
  • Possibly one year of jail time
  • A $1,000 fine 

And any amount above one ounce could lead to a felony charge. That increases the prison sentence up to 10 years. 

However, there are some new efforts to reduce criminal penalties

Some communities around the state are working to minimize the consequences of marijuana possession. 

Most recently, Macon-Bibb County passed an ordinance that reduces the punishment for marijuana possession. The new ordinance eliminates the misdemeanor penalties of a possession charge by:

  1. Issuing a ticket instead of arresting someone
  2. Replacing the penalty of jail time with a $75 fine

As one of the commissioners reported to WMGT News, the community is not legalizing marijuana. They are only reducing the harm it can do to someone’s life. They do not want one mistake to define someone’s future.

Nine other municipalities around Georgia have passed similar ordinances, and even more are considering moving in the same direction.

Could Georgia legalize marijuana anytime soon?

Decriminalizing marijuana is very different from legalizing it. At the moment, Georgia seems to be headed in the direction of decriminalizing the drug first. 

It is a big step to legalize medical marijuana. And the new efforts to reduce the penalties are yet another essential step. However, the WMGT article reports that laws like this still face significant opposition around the state. 

So, the answer to that question is unclear. The national movements to legalize marijuana might influence our state. The evidence of reduced penalties is enough to show that. However, there is no way of telling whether lawmakers will seek legalization in the near future.


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