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The State of Marijuana in the State of Georgia


On March 3, 2017, the Georgia House of Representatives passed HB 65 pertaining to medical marijuana. The bill, which still requires approval by the senate side, maintains the permissible level of THC in cannabis oil at up to 5% (THC is the active ingredient), and expands the list of conditions and illnesses eligible for treatment with medical marijuana. Among the new conditions and illnesses are Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDs, and autism, and they are added to the previous list of illnesses that include cancer, epilepsy, intractable pain, Parkinson’s disease, and Tourette’s syndrome. Some legislators had expressed concern about keeping the percentage of THC at 5% due to the fact that patients and families of minor patients can currently possess up to 20 ounces of cannabis oil to treat severe forms of the qualifying illnesses or conditions. However, advocates of medical marijuana in its current form insisted that the percentage of THC is necessary for effective treatment of severe forms of the diseases and conditions listed, and ultimately they prevailed.


Georgia is one of twenty-nine states that have legalized medical marijuana. Eight states have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults. Since medical and recreational use marijuana remain illegal under federal law, the states that have legalized the use of marijuana in some way have relied on the restraint and comity of the federal government and it enforcement efforts. Under the Obama administration and the Department of Justice headed by Attorney General Eric Holder, the federal government deferred to the states and their enforcement programs regarding marijuana, allowing local dispensaries to flourish and state coffers to benefit.

Currently, however, the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have sent mixed signals about whether this accommodation by the federal government of state law enforcement protocols will continue. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators are seeking clarification from Attorney General Sessions on whether the Cole Memorandum and its policy of non-interference in states’ regulations and laws on marijuana will be upheld. The Senate group wants assurances that the Department of Justice “will respect states’ ability to enforce thoughtful, sensible drug policies in ways that do not threaten the public’s health and safety.”


Driving under the influence of marijuana is still not clearly defined. Unlike alcohol, there is no scientifically agreed-upon blood level that can be used to determine intoxication, since marijuana can stay in a person’s system a long time. As stated above, THC is the active ingredient in marijuana—it is what makes a person “high”—but it can show up in lab tests a long time after someone has ingested it, and a very long time after that high has worn off. Therefore, a driving while impaired standard has been advocated in order to show that someone is incapable of driving safely or is driving less safely due to marijuana. Performing poorly on a field sobriety test or a blatantly intoxicated or high demeanor should be shown in order to prove that someone is driving under the influence of marijuana. However, the law as it stands now in Georgia (and in many states) is a per se law: any amount of marijuana found in a person's system is proof of driving under the influence.


If you or someone you know has been in an accident and marijuana was involved, contact Dave Thomas of The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation of your legal rights.

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