Unlike other states in the union that have decriminalized or fully legalized marijuana, the drug remains fully illegal in the state of Georgia, with potential criminal penalties for those who violate the laws governing its possession. The amount of marijuana that a defendant was caught with has a potentially large impact on the severity of penalties that the justice system will mete out. Here’s how the quantity of marijuana impacts the prosecution and sentencing of drug offenders in Georgia.
The possession laws and associated penalties in Georgia
In Georgia, possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Any amount greater than 1 ounce is prosecuted as a felony with lengthier fines and jail sentences. In some cases, in what are called “first offender” provisions, the defendant may be granted a lower charge or a diversion if it is the first time that the individual has been arrested for marijuana possession.
Georgia “intent to distribute” laws
The criminal law courts are harsher with defendants who have demonstrated an “intent to distribute,” meaning the legal system determines that they not only possessed marijuana but also intended to sell it for profit. Whether the person actually intended to sell the marijuana in question is often irrelevant as this is a legal determination that affects the penalties imposed for a conviction. In Georgia, the penalty for marijuana possession with intent to distribute increases if the arrest occurred within 1,000 feet of a park, school or housing project.
Georgia’s criminal marijuana possession laws are stricter than most states’ laws in the U.S., and reform is not on the immediate horizon. Individuals who are accused of marijuana possession may need a solid defense strategy to avoid harsh penalties.