Public attitudes towards marijuana in Georgia are becoming far more relaxed, especially as other states, such as Colorado and California, begin legalizing recreational use of the drug. However, while Georgians may no longer think that offenders of marijuana crimes deserve the heavy handed sentences they have been subject to for decades, the fact remains that state law concerning marijuana remains very tough. While it can be easy to think that marijuana is no longer a “big deal,” the penalties that offenders face can still be surprisingly extreme.
Getting mixed messages?
Navigating what is legal and not legal concerning marijuana in Georgia can be difficult. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, while Georgia has made medical marijuana legal in the state, growing it or importing it remains illegal. As a result, people who grow even small amounts of the plant for their own medicinal purposes can find themselves suddenly facing accusation of drug dealing and years in prison.
The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that different levels of government have taken very different attitudes towards marijuana. As the Saporta Report recently noted, Fulton County has decriminalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and has called on the State of Georgia to stop arresting and jailing people in possession of small amounts of the drug.
At the state level, Georgia still considers possession of marijuana to be illegal unless for legal medicinal purposes (as stated above). At the federal level, marijuana remains strictly prohibited. The current federal administration has also indicated that it intends to crack down on marijuana offenses and has given no indication that it will loosen marijuana laws.
Laws not keeping up with attitudes
The extreme attitudes towards marijuana from federal and even some state officials do not reflect public attitudes either in Georgia or across the country. Nonetheless, laws remain severe and prison time is a very real possibility for anybody in Georgia who grows or possesses marijuana.
It is also important to remember that while municipalities may decriminalize marijuana, state and federal law takes precedence over municipal law. In other words, even in counties that have ostensibly decriminalized marijuana, those in possession of small amounts of the plant could still find themselves in legal trouble with state and federal authorities.
Marijuana laws can be extremely difficult to navigate and are often contradictory. Anybody who has been accused of a drug crime should not assume that they will be let off lightly. Marijuana crimes are still prosecuted severely and those accused of such offenses need to take the accusations seriously. A criminal defense attorney can assist clients with upholding their rights and defending them both in and out of court.