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Your Guide to Marijuana Laws in Georgia

Learn about Georgia marijuana laws and penalties. Need assistance? Get in touch with The Waltman Firm, your Marietta and Atlanta criminal defense attorneys.

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Is Marijuana Legal in Georgia?

While there has been some discussion among lawmakers regarding potential changes to marijuana laws in Georgia, the current legal landscape remains quite restrictive.

Despite limited exceptions for the use of medical marijuana, the state has implemented stringent criminalization measures surrounding the possession, sale, use, trafficking, and cultivation of marijuana. You may peruse our guide to Georgia drug trafficking laws to learn more.

Possession of even a small amount of the substance may result in severe criminal charges, including significant fines, imprisonment, or both.


Federal Law v. State Law

In Georgia, the possession of marijuana is considered illegal under state and federal laws. According to the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it has no recognized medicinal value and is deemed to have a high potential for abuse. This is the federal government’s stance on marijuana, even though many states have legalized it for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Georgia’s Medical Marijuana Law

Georgia law provides an exception for the medical use of marijuana. The state has established a medical cannabis program that allows patients with qualifying conditions to use low-THC oil for medicinal purposes.

Even though medical use of marijuana possession is legal under Georgia law in certain limited circumstances, it is still categorized as a controlled substance under federal law, and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes remains illegal in the state.

Marijuana Criminal Charges

In Georgia, the possession and distribution of marijuana for recreational purposes are illegal. A person who is caught in possession of marijuana without a valid medical reason may be charged with a crime. The severity of these charges can vary based on the amount of marijuana in question and the number of prior offenses an individual has.

Felony Drug Charges Explained

A felony is a serious criminal offense typically punishable by imprisonment for more than a year and a substantial fine. Felony drug charges refer to crimes related to the possession, sale, distribution, or manufacture of controlled substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs.

Felony drug charges can carry severe consequences, including long-term imprisonment, hefty fines, and a criminal record that can significantly impact an individual’s future opportunities and rights, such as the right to vote and own a firearm.

Additionally, a conviction for a drug crime can also result in various collateral consequences, such as difficulty finding employment, housing, and obtaining financial aid for education.


Marijuana Felony Charges

Possessing over an ounce of marijuana is categorized as a felony crime and is punishable by a minimum of one year and a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

In addition to the above, it is a crime to possess marijuana with the intent to sell, supply, traffic, or distribute it. Depending on the amount possessed, it is punishable by a period of imprisonment ranging from 2 to 30 years and fines between $100,000 and $1,000,000.


Misdemeanor Drug Charges Explained

A misdemeanor is a criminal offense typically punishable by imprisonment for less than one year, a fine, or both. Misdemeanor drug charges refer to crimes related to the possession of small amounts of controlled substances, such as marijuana, prescription drugs, and certain illegal drugs.

While a misdemeanor drug conviction may not carry the same severe consequences as a felony, it can still significantly impact an individual’s life and result in a criminal record, fines, and potentially even jail time.

For second or subsequent offenses, the penalties for possessing marijuana are even more severe.


Marijuana Misdemeanor Charges

Possessing an ounce of marijuana or lesser is categorized as a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000, or public works for up to a year.

Drug Paraphernalia

Drug paraphernalia is any product, item, or tool that is used or intended to be used for drug-related activities. A tool used to cultivate, gather, prepare, store, move, or use marijuana or any other drug falls under this category. Georgia prohibits the sale, ownership, or use of these tools.

It is illegal to sell drug paraphernalia or advertise its sale, and you could face serious consequences if you’re caught selling or promoting it.



Georgia classifies the possession of drug paraphernalia as a misdemeanor offense. It is significant to remember that depending on the particular violation committed, the severity of the penalties may change.

For a first offense, you could be charged with a misdemeanor and be sentenced to up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. If you are convicted a second time, you could result in up to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine, or both.

But it doesn’t stop there. If you are convicted for a third or subsequent offense, the charges escalate to a felony. You could face up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. These penalties highlight the seriousness with which Georgia views the sale and promotion of drug paraphernalia.

Georgia Drug-Free Zones

Drug-free zones are specific areas in the state of Georgia where the possession, sale, or use of illegal drugs is prohibited by law and punishable by harsher penalties. These zones include schools, parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, and public housing complexes. If someone violates drug laws within 1,000 feet of these zones, they may incur additional penalties.

The penalties for first-time drug offenders who violate drug laws within a drug-free zone are a felony charge, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

For second and subsequent convictions, violators will face a mandatory minimum of five (and up to 40) years in prison, a fine of up to $40,000, or both.

A defendant may avoid the additional punishment for offenses occurring within a drug-free zone if they can prove that the conduct occurred entirely in a private residence, was not for financial gain, and no person younger than 17 was present during the violation. However, the defendant will still face the penalties applicable to the underlying drug crime charges.

Diversion Programs and Conditional Releases

In Georgia, first-time offenders for marijuana possession may qualify for diversion programs or conditional releases, offering an alternative to traditional prosecution. Diversion programs, such as the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTIP), allow eligible individuals to complete specific requirements like community service, drug education classes, and regular drug testing. Successful completion can result in the dismissal of charges, avoiding a criminal record.

Conditional release, or probation before judgment, enables the court to defer proceedings while the defendant undergoes probation. If the terms are met, the court may dismiss the case. Eligibility typically depends on the nature of the offense, the amount of marijuana, and the individual’s criminal history. These alternatives aim to reduce recidivism and promote rehabilitation over punishment.

Get Legal Help From an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing marijuana or drug charges in Georgia, it is crucial to seek the guidance of an experienced marijuana possession lawyer. The Waltman Firm has a team of knowledgeable and dedicated attorneys committed to protecting your rights and fighting for a favorable outcome in your case.

Whether you are facing a felony or a misdemeanor drug charge, we provide the legal representation you need to navigate the complex criminal justice system. 

With a proven track record of success and a commitment to client satisfaction, we have the knowledge and experience required for those seeking quality legal representation in Georgia. Contact us for a consultation to start fighting for your rights today!