Drug Possession Laws in Georgia

27 Aug Drug Possession Laws in Georgia

Police officers can pull over people for any number of reasons including a broken tail light, speeding, and rolling a stop sign. While most are free to leave with a ticket or admonishment, some end up in cuffs and in the back of the squad car because the officer discovered drugs in the car. For someone in such a bind, their first initial thought is likely, “What are the consequences of drug possession laws in Georgia? How much money or jail time is possible stated by the drug laws in Georgia and what are the other ramifications?”

While the rates may vary on a state by state basis, substance abuse and addiction pose a widespread public health crisis across the country. Sadly, substance abuse can be found in every single state, city, and town; regardless of populace size, racial makeup, religious makeup, gender and age, no population goes unscathed. Rates of overdose and prevalence of drug use seem to indicate that this calamity is not getting better and that the decades and trillions of dollars spent on the war on drugs have, in many communities, all been for naught.

In recent years, opioids have surpassed motor fatalities as the number one killer of young people beneath the age of thirty-five. Georgia has an opioid crisis itself, as it has experienced a heroin epidemic, fentanyl outbreaks, and the Triangle Tragedy. Such drug abuse outbreaks have resulted in over 1,000 Georgians dying every year. And what these numbers do not show are all of the adverse side effects to the state caused by prevalent drug use including increases in crime, health care costs, poverty, fatalities, and a host of other issues.

To crack down on this growing public health crisis, the state has pushed for legislation in order to bolster Georgia’s war on drugs, with the goal of cutting the supply of drugs from Florida, decreasing Georgia’s teenage drug abuse, and preventing tragedies such as what is currently taking place in the Georgian Triangle.

It should be noted that some substances are of a more significant concern than others and that different actions might be required to curb those problems and save lives. Below, we will discuss the Georgia Controlled and Dangerous Substance Act and the penalties for various drug possessions.

How Georgia Classifies CDS

Every state has laws on the books that regulate the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS). Where they diverge is their definition of CDS and the penalties for the possession of controlled substances. In Georgia, lawmakers have classified not only the controlled substances but also the ingredients that are used to create and manufacture the drugs on a wide scale.

According to Georgia Code Section 16-13-25 – 16-13-29, controlled dangerous substances are grouped into five “schedules,” according to the state’s opinion on the probability of abuse. They go as follows:

  • Schedule I Drugs – According to the State, Schedule I drugs are considered to be those that have a high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use.
    • Drugs that are considered to be Schedule I: MDMA, Ecstasy, LSD, Heroin, Psilocybin (Shrooms). Although Marijuana is classified as Schedule 1 federally, many states have passed medicinal or recreational laws countermanding this classification. Georgia marijuana possession laws treat this drug differently than other Schedule 1 drugs, especially if the amount held is less than an ounce, which is considered to be for personal use.
  • Schedule II Drugs – According to the state, Schedule II drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse, but having some accepted medical use. Ironically, schedule II drugs have, in recent years, proven to be deadlier and more addictive to Georgians than Schedule I drugs. The vast majority of these drugs can be obtained legally through a prescription. The scary thing is that drugs like Fentanyl overdoses in the US alone have taken more lives in recent years than all the schedule 1 drugs combined, minus heroin.  
    • Drugs that are considered to be Schedule II: Amphetamine, Codeine, Cocaine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Ketamine, Morphine, Opium, and Oxycodone.
  • Schedule III Drugs – According to the state, Schedule III drugs are considered to have less potential for abuse than say a Schedule I or II drugs and have an accepted medical application. Such abuse typically leads to low or moderate levels of physical dependence, but high levels of psychological dependence.
    • Drugs that are considered to be Schedule III: Anabolic steroids, Barbiturates (not all), Central Nervous System Depressants, Central Nervous System Stimulants, and substances or concoctions containing small amounts of schedule I or II narcotics.
  • Schedule IV Drugs – According to the state, Schedule IV drugs are considered to have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs and have an acceptable medical use. Such abuse could lead to limited physical and psychological dependence in relation to Schedule III drugs. Although classified as being limited in possible dependence, studies and recent trends seem to indicate that such drugs may actually be more addictive and regularly abused, especially recreationally, than many Schedule III and even some Schedule I drugs.
    • Drugs that are considered to be Schedule IV:  Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), and Zolpidem (Ambien).
  • Schedule V Drugs – According to the state, Schedule V drugs are considered to have the lowest potential for abuse, have some accepted medical value, but can lead to limited psychological and physical dependence. Such drugs typically contain mixtures containing limited amounts of narcotics or components that make up a certain type of narcotic.
    • Drugs that are considered to be Schedule V: Mainly consists of over the counter medications such as elixirs, inhalers, ointments, sprays, syrups, and tablets.

Drug Possession Penalties in Georgia

If caught in possession of an illegal scheduled substance, you will be charged for violating the Georgia Controlled Substance Act (O.C.G.A. § 16-13-1 et. seq.) This Controlled Substance Act has a variety of statues dealing with all manner of topics regarding drug possession such as defining terms, drug schedules, counterfeit drugs, civil asset forfeiture, compounds used for manufacture of drugs, punishment for certain offenses, prescriptions, administrative sanctions, registration requirements medical research and a variety of other topics. Criminal charges may be found in O.C.G.A.§ 16-13-30 or O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31. If a person has enough drugs to justify it, federal violations may be charged, and the case might transfer to the U.S. District Court instead of the Georgian Superior Court of whatever county a person was in when arrested.

In Georgia, drug possession implies being caught with a controlled substance, but with an amount of the drug that is small enough to be thought of as “for personal use.” What can be considered “for personal use” varies from drug to drug, and is also contingent upon the purity of the particular drug. In the case of marijuana, for example, this amount is less than an ounce. If less than an ounce is found, the accused will be charged with misdemeanor drug possession.

Penalties for the Possession of CDS

Controlled and dangerous substance possession crimes are all considered to be felonies, except in the case of less than an ounce of marijuana. A charge of felony possession will carry specific penalties that hinge upon the schedule of the drug, the amount of the drug possessed, and whether a person has prior possession convictions. Penalties listed below can be found in O.C.G.A.§ 16-13-30 or O.C.G.A. § 16-13-31:

  • Schedule I Drugs – Possession of any Schedule I controlled and dangerous substance narcotic is a felony punishable by 2-15 years in prison. A second or third conviction is punishable by 5-30 years in prison.
    • The penalty for possession of marijuana:
      • Less than an ounce: Possession of less than one ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by one or both of, up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1000, or community service lasting up to one year.
      • More than an ounce: Possession of more than an ounce is classified as a felony and is punishable by 1-10 years in prison.
      • Schedule II Drugs – Possession of any Schedule II controlled and dangerous substance other than a narcotic is a felony punishable by 2-15 years in prison. A second or third conviction is punishable by 5-30 years in prison.
      • Schedule III Drugs – Possession of any Schedule III controlled, and dangerous substance is punishable by 1-5 years in prison. A second or third conviction is punishable by 1-10 years in prison.
      • Schedule IV Drugs – Possession of any Schedule IV controlled and dangerous substance is punishable by 1-5 years in prison. A second or third conviction is punishable by 1-10 years in prison. *It should be noted that flunitrazepam is not included in this.*
        • Flunitrazepam has its own section entitled Georgia Code Section 16-13-30. Possession of flunitrazepam is a felony and punishable by 2-15 years in prison. A second or third conviction is punishable by 5-30 years in prison.
        • Schedule V Drugs – Possession of any Schedule V controlled, and dangerous substance is punishable by 1-5 years in prison. A second or third conviction is punishable by 1-10 years in prison.

        Possession with Intent to Distribute in Georgia

         A simple drug possession carries far less harsh penalties than a charge of possession with intent to distribute. While the amount of the substance is typically a good indicator of intent, law enforcement may decide that the drugs were not intended for personal use, but rather for sale and distribution to others, by a variety of factors such as:

        • Additional jars, plastic bags, or other packaging was found in the vicinity of the home or vehicle.
        • Large amounts of cash were present in the vicinity of the home or vehicle.
        • The amount is believed to be more than recreational for a single person.
        • The controlled substance was split up into smaller, distributable amounts, which were packaged separately.
        • The presence of a scale or measuring device in the vicinity of the home or the vehicle often used to weigh out and cut up bulk substances into purchasable recreational amounts.

        No matter the substance found, a charge of intent to distribute is considered to be a felony offense and will carry stiffer penalties, including jail time and fines, than a simple possession charge.

        Possession of Drug Related Objects in Georgia

        The ownership of drug-related objects in Georgia is considered to be a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Examples of drug-related objects are:

        • Objects used to hide or conceal controlled and dangerous substances
        • Materials meant to grow or cultivate controlled and dangerous substances
        • Materials intended to contain, store or package controlled and dangerous substances
        • Items used to facilitate the use of controlled and dangerous substances such as an inhaler, needles, pipes, bongs, and other tools of ingestion.

        Steps Taken to Curb Drug Problems in the State of Georgia

        In the past few years, Georgian lawmakers have made several strides in pursuit of addressing the growing drug problem.

        • 911 Medical Amnesty Law – This law applies to any drug and was added to supplement the original Good Samaritan Law. The bill “Protects individuals from arrest, prosecution, or conviction of certain drug offenses if the evidence for any action results from seeking medical assistance for someone thought to be suffering from drug overdose.” The goal of this law was to cut down on overdoses by encouraging people to call first responders without fear of reprisal or drug possession violations that might arise from calling for medical attention.
        • House Bill 88 – This bill creates minimum standards and quality of services for narcotic treatment programs wishing to obtain certification. It also increases regulations and closes loopholes on treatment centers throughout the state.
        • House Bill 121 – This bill reschedules Naloxone, the emergency OD drug, as a Schedule V exempt drug. By exempting this drug, Naloxone can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies throughout the state.
        • House Bill 249 – This bill requires physicians to look up a patient’s prescription history to see if they have a history of drug seeking.

        If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug addiction, Georgia Drug Detox center can help. For more information on drug detox programs or on where you can find a rehab center in Georgia, please give us a call us today.

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