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Reforms could be coming to Georgia’s medical marijuana laws

Georgia’s medical marijuana laws are notoriously strict, but changes may be on the horizon.

Georgia laws against marijuana are notoriously tough. While some states have decriminalized or even legalized the recreational use of marijuana, in Georgia, as NORML reports, possessing just a few grams of marijuana could land one in prison for up to a year. Larger amounts of marijuana possession can lead to even lengthier prison sentences. While Georgia has technically made the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes legal, even then the law is so narrow that it essentially means that medical marijuana users in Georgia risk being charged with a criminal offense if they try to grow or buy the plant. Fortunately, changes to Georgia's medical marijuana laws could be coming soon.

Is medical marijuana legal in Georgia?

Three years ago, Georgia state lawmakers legalized medical marijuana for certain health conditions. That law allows qualified individuals to possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil. The law allows the Georgia Department of Public Health to issue a "Low THC Oil Registry Card" to Georgia residents or their parents or guardians who have a disease specified under Georgia law as qualifying for medical marijuana.

The law only allows for low THC oil to be used and does not permit the medicinal use of marijuana in its leaf form. That fact alone already makes Georgia's medical marijuana law one of the strictest in the nation. What's worse, however, is that the law does not make it legal to grow marijuana in the state. That means that people with the Low THC Oil Registry Card have no choice but to transport it from another state, but in doing so they risk putting themselves in violation of federal drug laws.

Change on the horizon

Many lawmakers oppose in-state cultivation because they worry that it could be a first step towards the full legalization of recreational marijuana. However, since the current law essentially makes criminals out of anybody who tries to get low THC oil for medical purposes, it is clear that reforms to the state's medical marijuana laws are necessary.

Last year the General Assembly tried and failed to pass those reforms. Fortunately, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the General Assembly did create a 10-person commission "to evaluate security, manufacturing, product labeling, testing, and dispensing" of medical marijuana. Both candidates for governor have said they will listen to the commission's advice, which is due by the end of the year, on how to better improve access to low THC oil for patients.

Criminal defense law

Although some cities in Georgia have moved to decriminalize marijuana, it is important to remember that under both state and federal law possession of marijuana is still considered a very serious offense that can result in jail time. Marijuana-related charges need to be taken very seriously. A criminal defense attorney can help those who are facing these charges understand what options they have and how they can fight to defend their rights.