In recent years, laws concerning marijuana use and possession have changed dramatically. While marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, many states are shifting their perspectives on the substance.
Federally, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I substance; however, Georgia no longer gives it the same assessment. Instead, Georgia includes marijuana in the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
Changes in both state and local marijuana laws can make it confusing to know what law enforcement will do if you have or use marijuana. Here’s what you should know about how where you are could impact what happens if you are caught with marijuana.
The type of officer matters
There is an important distinction between getting caught by a state trooper and getting a citation from a city or county officer. A state trooper can charge marijuana possession as a state crime which can result in up to a year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine.
There can be significant differences in how the state, county or city looks at marijuana possession, since the laws can be different on each level. For example, a citation for possession in Atlanta is less severe, with a fine of up to $75 for a first offense.
According to state law, Georgia cities and counties are unable to legalize possession but they can reduce penalties. Several cities and counties in Georgia have done just that in recent years, most notably including Atlanta and Savannah. Doraville, a small city in DeKalb County, joined this growing list in 2020, making possession no longer an arrestable offense.
The future of Georgia marijuana laws
More and more, politicians are starting to see marijuana possession as a victimless crime. For example, in data collected in 2019 in Doraville, of the 135 people arrested for carrying less than an ounce of marijuana, over 100 had possession as the only charge or the only arrestable offense.
Officials are pushing to continue to change laws around marijuana use and possession, aiming to eventually decriminalize or legalize the substance at the state level. In the meantime, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand the potential penalties you face and how to protect your rights, no matter where the offense took place.