Marijuana Minor Possession and No Arrest in Georgia
Marijuana No Arrest Policies in Georgia
Is possession of Marijuana in Georgia now legal? Learn about recent no-arrest policies for minor possession of marijuana in parts of Georgia.
Recently there has been a lot of chatter about a new “no arrest policy” announced in Cobb County. Subsequently, a lot of people are confused as to whether or not it’s now okay to possess marijuana in Georgia.
Is Marijuana Possession Now Legal in Georgia?
In August of 2019 some areas of Georgia announced that they would no longer arrest or prosecute people for minor possession of marijuana. It is important to understand that this does not mean possession of marijuana in Georgia is legal. However, for now you may get a break in some areas if caught with small amounts of marijuana.
Where Is This in Effect?
While the Cobb County Police Department is working under this new policy other local departments are not yet on board. While Kennesaw and Acworth police are applying the new policy it has not been implemented by other departments such as Austell and Powder Springs.
Our suggestion is to not take chances on getting arrested. While you may get a break in some areas, you shouldn’t automatically assume it’s okay to possess marijuana in Georgia.
Other local areas that are reported to have adopted similar positions include the Cities of Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, and counties including Dekalb and Gwinnett. The Dekalb County Police Department issued a public statement saying, “Although possession of marijuana remains illegal, the DeKalb County Police Department will temporarily stop issuing citations or arresting anyone for possession of only misdemeanor amounts of marijuana.”2
If it’s not legal, how does this work?
A recent article by the Marietta Daily Journal included this statement by Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, “This is not a declaration of wholesale dismissals of all cases involving marijuana. Other case types involving felony marijuana, such as sales, trafficking and distribution, will be processed as the facts and circumstances of each individual case may warrant.”1.
Why This Is Happening
In May 2019, Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a “new hemp law” which makes it legal to possess industrial hemp for farming. Currently, police officers have no definitive manner to distinguish the difference in industrial hemp and non-industrial hemp. The inability to distinguish one from the other presents quite a challenge for accurate enforcement by police.
As a result, Cobb County made the decision to suspend prosecution of people for minor possession (less than an ounce). This change is expected to remain in-place until something can be put in place that works with the new State law.
On May 12, 2019, Cobb County Police Chief Tim Cox issued a formal statement to law enforcement personnel. The statement by Cox is as follows, “As a result, effective immediately, any misdemeanor amounts of marijuana that an officer encounters will be confiscated and sent to the evidence unit to be destroyed. A criminal charge will not be made until a solution can be found to this dilemma”3.
Cox went on to say, “We are not the only law enforcement jurisdiction that is dealing with this dilemma. I hope a resolution can be made soon.”
Georgia Controlled Substances Act
The county-by-county and individual police department decisions to not prosecute (for now) do not nullify existing Georgia laws. Under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor offence, punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000. Possessing more than an ounce of the illicit drug is a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Legal Hemp vs. Illegal Ganja
Yes, despite the effect of the new Hemp Law there may be developments that revert possession enforcement to it’s prior process. The challenge for law enforcement at the street-level is being able to accurately determine THC content of any substance. A recent article published on Curbed (Atlanta) exlains it this way, “The changes come in light of “The Georgia Hemp Farming Act” becoming law in early May. That law allows licensed growers to produce—and buyers to possess—hemp with a THC concentration of .3 percent or less. Problem is, determining the difference between legal hemp and illegal ganja with THC potency of between 10 and 35 percent is extremely difficult, even under a microscope, as both look and smell the same, according to Gwinnett police spokesman Sgt. Jake Smith. Tests currently used by Gwinnett police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab only detect the presence of THC, not its potency in plants.”4
About Cases Already Being Prosecuted
Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan says there will be no wholesale dismissal of cases in Cobb County. Any current decisions to not arrest or prosecute people for minor possession does not change existing criminal cases. Active criminal cases will move forward without changes to the process.
Morgan added, “The solicitor general reiterated that all marijuana possession remains illegal in Georgia and that anyone who admits or is found guilty of the crime in Cobb will still have a criminal conviction on their record, unless they receive diversion or special allowances for first offenders.”
If you have been arrested or need legal help with a controlled substance case we invite you to contact our marijuana arrest lawyers in Canton, Georgia.
If you need legal help with any type of marijuana or drug arrest issues, give us a call to discuss your situation.
- 1 Rosie Manins, “Cobb halts prosecution of minor marijuana possession”, August 13, 2019, Available from Marietta Daily Journal Online
- 2 Tia Mitchell, “DeKalb County is latest to begin dismissing marijuana cases”, August 15, 2019, Available from AJC
- 3 Rosie Manins, “Cobb halts prosecution of minor marijuana possession”, August 13, 2019, Available from Marietta Daily Journal Online
- 4 Josh Green, “Gwinnett County, like Atlanta, will no longer prosecute low-level marijuana cases “, August 13, 2019, Available from Curbed Atlanta
- Photo courtesy of LexScope via Unsplash.com