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Cannabis in Georgia (U.S. state)

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Cannabis in Georgia is illegal for recreational use, but decriminalized in the cities of Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, Athens, and others. Limited medical use is allowed in the form of cannabis oil containing less than 5% THC.

Illicit trade[edit]

In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of county sheriffs and deputies were prosecuted for their involvement in the drug trade, including Sheriff John David Davis, a former moonshiner who had been pardoned by President Nixon and was convicted in 1984 of smuggling cannabis into south Georgia. Davis' case parallels that of a number of other former moonshiners who segued into the cannabis trade.[1]

1983 paraquat spraying[edit]

In 1983, amidst controversy, the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted aerial spraying of illegal cannabis plots in the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia, using the herbicide paraquat.[2] Citizens and a congressman objected, noting paraquat's dangers, and a temporary restraining order was placed on further spraying. The federal Drug Abuse Policy Officer Pat McKelvey rebutted that paraquat is a safe and widely used herbicide, and alleged that the objections to the DEA spraying had been raised by cannabis growers and legalization advocates.[3]

Policy reforms[edit]

1980 medical legalization[edit]

In February 1980, a 50-0 Senate vote and a 156-8 House vote passed Mona Taft's bill supporting legal medical marijuana in Georgia for people diagnosed with glaucoma and cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Members from both parties came together to support Taft, including then-state Sen. Paul Broun. According to a Feb. 14, 1980, Knight-Ridder wire report about the bill, Broun hugged Taft when the legislation passed the Senate. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Virlyn Smith, R-Fairburn, even told the widow that he'd recently given a constituent taking chemotherapy a recipe for marijuana-laced chocolate-chip cookies. Georgia's program had effectively ended without ever supplying a single patient with the medical marijuana promised. Subsequent Georgia governors had the authority to reappoint the board, but never acted. As a result, the law has lingered on the books for the last 30 years.[4]

2015 medical legalization[edit]

A measure to allow medical cannabis oil up to 5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) passed the Georgia House in February 2015.[5] On April 16, 2015, the low-THC cannabis oil (rich in cannabidiol, or CBD) was legalized for medical use in the state under HB 1,[6] the Haleigh’s Hope Act.[7][8] The bill was immediately enacted after being signed by Governor Nathan Deal. The bill allowed possession of the oil for eight qualifying medical conditions but did not provide for cultivation or distribution within the state. A May 2017 expansion under SB 16 added six more conditions.[9][10] In 2018, HB 65 added intractable pain and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[11] In April 2019 legislation was approved (House Bill 324) to allow in-state cultivation of cannabis and sale of the low-THC oil.[12][13] In 2021, SB 195 was approved to allow the sale of cannabis tinctures, transdermal patches, lotions, and capsules, while still prohibiting edible products and flower.[14] On April 28, 2023, the first licensed sales began with the opening of dispensaries in Marietta and Macon.[15]

Municipal level[edit]

In October 2017, Atlanta City Council voted 15–0 to reduce the penalty for up to 1 ounce (28 g) of cannabis to a $75 fine.[16] Savannah City Council followed in March 2018 by voting 8–1 to reduce the penalty to a $150 fine.[17] Other jurisdictions that have decriminalized or otherwise acted to reduce penalties include: Clarkston (2016),[18] South Fulton (2018),[18] Forest Park (2018),[18] Kingsland (2018),[18] Statesboro (2018),[19] Macon–Bibb County (2019),[20] Augusta (2019),[21] Chamblee (2019),[22] Tybee Island (2021),[23] Athens–Clarke County (2022),[24] Stonecrest (2022),[25] and East Point (2023).[26]


  1. ^ Vincent Coppola (2008). The Sicilian Judge: Anthony Alaimo, an American Hero. Mercer University Press. pp. 221–. ISBN 978-0-88146-125-1.
  2. ^ Russakoff, Dale (August 25, 1983). "Use of Paraquat to Kill Marijuana Stirs Protests". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  3. ^ New Scientist. Reed Business Information. August 25, 1983. pp. 531–. ISSN 0262-4079.
  4. ^ "Doctors wanted for Georgia's medical marijuana law". Creative Loafing. January 9, 2013. Archived from the original on January 13, 2018.
  5. ^ "Cannabis Oil: "It Will Help With The Pain And Make Life A Little More Bearable" « CBS Atlanta". Atlanta.cbslocal.com. September 1, 1995. Archived from the original on March 3, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  6. ^ "HB 1 2015-2016 Regular Session". www.legis.ga.gov. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  7. ^ Bluestein, Greg (April 16, 2015). "Medical marijuana is now legal in Georgia". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  8. ^ "Georgia enacts bill allowing in-state access to low-THC oil!". Marijuana Policy Project. April 18, 2019.
  9. ^ Baruchman, Michelle (May 9, 2017). "Georgia medical marijuana expansion bill signed into law". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  10. ^ "SB 16 2017-2018 Regular Session". www.legis.ga.gov. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  11. ^ "HB 65 2017-2018 Regular Session". www.legis.ga.gov. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  12. ^ Mansoor, Sanya (April 17, 2019). "Georgia Gov. Kemp signs medical marijuana bill". ABC News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  13. ^ Niesse, Mark (April 17, 2019). "Medical marijuana oil sales signed into Georgia law". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  14. ^ "Georgia". Marijuana Policy Project. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  15. ^ "Georgia medical marijuana stores open, ending long struggle". Associated Press. April 29, 2023. Retrieved July 14, 2023.
  16. ^ Angell, Tom (October 11, 2017). "Atlanta Mayor Signs Marijuana Decrim Proposal". Marijuana Moment. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  17. ^ Curl, Eric (March 1, 2018). "Savannah approves reduced pot penalties". Savannah Morning News. Archived from the original on April 17, 2019. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  18. ^ a b c d "Georgia Local Decriminalization". NORML. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  19. ^ Hackle, Al (December 4, 2018). "Council approves jail-free marijuana ordinance". Statesboro Herald. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  20. ^ Corley, Laura (May 21, 2019). "Macon-Bibb passes new marijuana ordinance: No jail time for small amounts of pot". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  21. ^ DuBose, Renetta (August 20, 2019). "Augusta commission passes easing punishments for marijuana offenses". WJBF. Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  22. ^ Capelouto, J.D. (September 18, 2019). "Chamblee decriminalizes marijuana possession". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  23. ^ "Possession of small amount of marijuana no longer a misdemeanor in Tybee Island". Fox 28 Savannah. Associated Press. September 7, 2021.
  24. ^ Allen, Stephanie (August 3, 2022). "Athens-Clarke commission eliminates jail time, sets $35 fine for marijuana possession". Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  25. ^ Estep, Tyler (August 23, 2022). "DeKalb's largest city decriminalizes an ounce or less of marijuana". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on October 21, 2022. Retrieved February 8, 2024.
  26. ^ DiRienzo, Rob (December 28, 2023). "East Point City Council votes to decriminalize weed possession". WAGA. Retrieved February 8, 2024.