Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Georgia?
By: Mary Agramonte
While Georgia does have a medical marijuana law in place, it is particularly limited when comparing it to similar laws in effect across the United States. Under Georgia’s medical marijuana law, found at O.C.G.A. § 16-12-191, certain qualified individuals may lawfully possess up to 20 fluid ounces of “low THC oil.” But what is low THC oil? And who is allowed to have it?
Low THC oil is much different than the leafy substance you may associate with marijuana. The marijuana plant itself consists of over a hundred different chemical compounds. For example, it is comprised partly of THC, the compound within the plant that we associate with the mind-altering effects. However, there are other lesser-known chemical compounds that make up the marijuana plant. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is another naturally occurring component of the plant, but it does not have the same intoxicating effects as THC. Instead, CBD is a cannabis compound that has been recognized to have significant medical benefits. It is for these medical benefits that the Georgia legislature has enacted a medical marijuana bill regulating which Georgians may use this low THC oil medicinally.
Under the medical marijuana law, the Georgia Department of Public Health can issue a “Low THC Oil Registry Card” to certain people that will protect them from arrest and prosecution if they are ever found possessing the oil. Currently, there are only eight specific diseases eligible to apply to be on the registry. Adults with the following conditions below may apply, as well as legal guardians of adults with the disease. Additionally, parents or guardians of minor children who suffer from the following diseases may apply to be on the registry. The diseases eligible for the Low THC Oil Registry are below:
- (1) Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness, recalcitrant nausea and vomiting;
- (2) Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), when such diagnosis is severe or end stage;
- (3) Seizure disorders related to diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries;
- (4) Multiple Sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage;
- (5) Crohn’s disease;
- (6) Mitochondrial disease;
- (7) Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage; or
- (8) Sickle Cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end stage.
Not all CBD oil is legal, even with a medical marijuana card. The law explicitly states that the oil must contain less than 5% by weight of THC. The Georgia medical marijuana law does not address where qualified persons can obtain it. Instead, the law’s purpose is simply to prevent them from being arrested and prosecuted for the crime of marijuana possession. Other than the above described CBD oil, all forms of marijuana remain illegal in Georgia. Possession of marijuana less than an ounce (in leaf form) is still a misdemeanor, with or without the medical marijuana card. If any person, whether on the registry or not, possesses more than 20 fluid ounces, or makes, sells, distributes the low THC oil, they will be guilty of a felony, with a punishment of 1 to 10 years, and a fine of $50,000, or both. The punishment and fines significantly increase depending on the amount of CBD oil.
If you are in need of legal CBD oil that conforms to the requirements above, a physician will need to recommend you to be on the registry, so that you can be protected from arrest and prosecution. Earlier this year, the Georgia House proposed an overhaul in regards to medical marijuana to include more diseases and conditions eligible for treatment. For now, the medical marijuana law in Georgia is extremely limited. If you have been arrested for any marijuana crime, it is important to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney so they can advise you on the current state of the law, as well as any defenses available to you. Please call us today for a free consultation at 404-581-0999.