Although Georgia Attitudes About Marijuana Have Shifted the Laws Remain Tough

The Atlanta News recently published a story which clearly shows that while residents of the state of Georgia have largely shifted their views regarding the legalization of marijuana, the marijuana laws in the state remain harsh. A Douglasville man was met with a veritable herd of law enforcement officers from the Drug Task Force, and even a helicopter circling over his home back in 2016. Randy Cooper was not necessarily surprised to see law enforcement at his home, however was surprised at the television-worthy number of law enforcement surrounding his home.

Cooper, a former horticulturist for the City of Douglasville routinely grew a few marijuana plants in his back yard, interspersed with the tomatoes and corn he also grew. Cooper had a reason for growing marijuana in his back yard—his wife, Barbara, needed the drug to help her cope with an aorta aneurysm. Despite the fact that Georgia has, in fact, legalized medical marijuana, his wife’s particular health issue was not covered.

Cooper made the conscious decision to grow marijuana to help his wife, believing the changing attitudes about marijuana would preclude any jail sentence even if he were to get caught. Cooper was wrong. He was first offered a plea deal which would have included two years in prison, but declined the deal, feeling he stood a better chance with a Georgia jury. Although Georgia state laws now allow those who suffer from specific illnesses to use cannabis oil, unfortunately there is no legal manner to bring the oil into the state—or to cultivate it.

Metro Atlanta has recently seen some communities decriminalize marijuana, making possession punishable by only a fine—no jail time. On the flip side, drug task forces in the state—particularly those in rural Georgia—still routinely lock up those who violate the state’s marijuana laws. As for Cooper, his case is complicated by the fact that his backyard is adjacent to a middle school—even though the roughly two pounds of marijuana plants seized were completely fenced in and concealed. In fact. Cooper doesn’t even own a cell phone, so it is highly unlikely he was using the marijuana for any reason other than the one he stated—to help his sick wife.

Less Than Twenty Illnesses Covered Under the Medical Marijuana Laws of Georgia
There were originally only eight specific illnesses in the state which allowed patients to possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil, although since 2015, eight more illnesses have been added. Although it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of residents could potentially be eligible, as of early 2018 only 4,000 Georgia residents had signed up. Officials expected that number to easily double in July when PTSD and chronic pain were added to the list of eligible illnesses.

Penalties for Marijuana Convictions
As you can see, the state is sending some pretty serious mixed messages to Georgia residents across the state. What you must know, is that the current Georgia penalties for possession of marijuana include:

• A conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana (a misdemeanor) can result in one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
• A conviction for possession of more than one ounce of marijuana but less than ten pounds (a felony) can result in between one and ten years in prison.
• Possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana is considered trafficking, and a conviction brings up to five years in prison and a mandatory fine of $100,000.

Where to Turn if You are Arrested for Possession of Marijuana
With the fluctuating state of marijuana laws in the state of Georgia—as well as in individual jurisdictions in Georgia—it is crucial that you seek experienced legal counsel immediately if you have been arrested for a marijuana-related crime. Because marijuana possession can bring extremely harsh penalties—penalties which can alter a future forever—a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney like Melanie Ellwanger can truly make a difference in the outcome of your charges. Melanie is the advocate in your corner when you most need it, fighting hard for your freedom and your future. Contact Melanie Ellwanger at (404) 803-3105 or at melanie@hiremelaw.com.