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The trend to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Georgia

Despite a growing nationwide trend to legalize marijuana, possession of even small amounts of pot is still a misdemeanor in Georgia. Local governments, such as cities and counties, cannot change that. What they can change, however, is the penalty they impose for that crime. This past summer, the town of Doraville in DeKalb County joined a growing list of local governments to do just that. Police now issue a fine to residents with less than one ounce of marijuana in their possession rather than arresting them.

Doraville follows the path of other cities and counties

Clarkston was the first city to do this back in 2016. Larger local governments that have followed this route include:

  • Atlanta
  • Savannah
  • Augusta-Richmond County
  • Macon-Bibb County

Officers still have the discretion to arrest someone under state law if they decide it is necessary. In addition, if they arrest someone for another crime while they are in possession of marijuana, the state will add that charge when the case goes to court.

Marijuana possession penalties

At this point, these changes only affect charges of simple possession for personal use of marijuana. Simple possession is the lowest level offense and applies to one ounce of marijuana or less. The normal misdemeanor penalty is up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Over one ounce and even up to 10 pounds may still be charged as possession for personal use, but jumps to a felony with a mandatory minimum prison term of one year.

You could face charges of possession with intent to sell if the police find evidence to support that charge, such as scales, baggies or large amounts of cash along with your marijuana, no matter the amount. Any amount over 10 pounds could illicit a trafficking charge.

Although sentiment may lean toward lessening penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, it is still illegal throughout the state. If you face marijuana charges of any kind, make sure you know your legal rights.