Marijuana possession, sale, and manufacture are regulated by both state and federal law. In Georgia, marijuana is classed as a controlled substance. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-1.) While not covered in this article, it is also a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana in Georgia.
To learn more about charges and penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana in Georgia, see Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Georgia.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession, Use, Manufacture, and Sale
It is a crime in Georgia to possess marijuana for personal use; or to buy, manufacture, or sell marijuana (or to possess it with the intent to do any of these things). Unlike most states, Georgia does not differentiate, for sentencing purposes, between possession for personal use and manufacture or sale (or possession for manufacture, distribution, or sale).
When a violation involves less than ten pounds, the offender is guilty of a felony that is punishable with between one to ten years in prison. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-30.) Additional penalties apply if the violation involved a minor younger than 17 years old, or if the offense occurred in a school or other drug-free zone.
Involving minors in marijuana manufacture or sales
It is also illegal to solicit or hire a minor younger than 17 years old to assist in the manufacture or distribution of marijuana. Doing so is a felony, punishable with between five to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-30.)
Violations that take place within 1,000 feet of a school, park, playground, recreation center, public housing project, or commercial drug-free zone incur additional penalties, as follows. These penalties are added to the prison time and fines described above. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-32.4(a)&(b).)
First convictions. Violators are guilty of a felony, punishable with up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-32.4(a)&(b).)
Second and subsequent convictions. Penalties for this felony include a mandatory minimum of five (and up to 40) years in prison, a fine of up to $40,000, or both.
Avoiding the drug-free zone consequences. A defendant may avoid the additional punishment for offenses occurring within a drug-free zone if the defendant can show that
- the conduct took place entirely in a private residence
- the conduct was not for financial gain, and
- no person younger than 17 years old was present during the violation. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-32.4(g).)
However, the defendant will still face the penalties applicable to the underlying crime.
Trafficking in Marijuana
It is illegal in Georgia to knowingly manufacture, sell, or bring more than ten pounds of marijuana into the state. This violation is known as “trafficking in marijuana,” and is punished according to the amount trafficked.
- Between ten and 2,000 pounds. Convictions carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five (but not more than 30) years, and a fine of $100,000. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-31(c)(1).)
- Between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds. Convictions carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of seven (but not more than 30) years, and a fine of $250,000. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-31(c)(2).)
- 10,000 pounds or more. Convictions carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 15 (but not more than 30) years, and a fine of $1,000,000. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-31(c)(3).)
It is illegal in Georgia to use, possess or sell drug paraphernalia. Paraphernalia includes all drug-related objects, including those used to plant, harvest, process, store, transport, or use marijuana. Penalties vary according to the violation.
Possession of paraphernalia
A violation is a misdemeanor, punishable with up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-32.2.)
Sale to an adult and advertising that drug paraphernalia is for sale
Selling paraphernalia to someone 18 years old or older, or advertising drug paraphernalia for sale, are both crimes in Georgia. A first conviction is a misdemeanor, punishable with up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A second conviction is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, punishable with up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. A third or subsequent offense is a felony, punishable with between one and five years in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-32.)
Sale to a minor
Selling or otherwise providing paraphernalia to a minor who is younger than 18 years old is crime in Georgia. A first conviction is a misdemeanor, punishable with up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A second or subsequent conviction is a felony, punishable with between one and five years in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, or both. Defendants face up to eight years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-1(b)&(e).)
Defendant’s mistake as to minor’s age
A defendant who sells paraphernalia to a minor may be able to defeat the charge if he can show that the mistake was made in good faith, after making an attempt to ascertain the minor’s age. To prevail, the defendant must be able to show that he had reasonable cause to believe that the minor was at least 18 years old (perhaps he was shown a seemingly valid ID card), and that he had no other reason to believe the purchaser was underage. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-1(d).)
Parents and guardians supplying paraphernalia to minors
Parents and legal guardians may also purchase for, or provide paraphernalia to their minor children without being guilty of violating this law. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-1(d).)
Falsely stating one’s age to buy paraphernalia
It's against the law for a minor or another person to lie about a minor’s age in order to buy drug paraphernalia. A violation is a misdemeanor, punishable with up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. (Ga. Code Ann. § 16-13-1(c).)
Does Georgia Impose a Stamp Tax on Marijuana?
Yes. A stamp tax is a tax imposed on certain types of transactions (such as the transfer of property). The law requires a stamp to be purchased and attached either to the item sold or to an instrument documenting the transaction (such as a deed). The federal government imposes stamp taxes on deeds, on stocks and bonds when they are issued or transferred, and on playing cards.
In Georgia, those who buy, transport, or import marijuana into the state are required to pay a stamp tax and place the stamp (proof of payment) on the contraband. However, because the possession of marijuana is illegal, people typically don’t pay the stamp tax voluntarily. Defendants who are convicted for possession must pay the unpaid stamp tax. (Ga. Code Ann. § 48-15-3.)
Does Georgia Allow Medical Marijuana Use?
No. All marijuana possession, manufacture, sales, and use is criminalized in Georgia.
An Important Note on Local Legal Representation
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. While the penalties and consequences of a marijuana charge are governed by statutory law, only a local criminal defense attorney can tell you how cases like yours tend to be handled by prosecutors and judges in your courthouse.