Medical Marijuana Laws In Georgia: What You Need To Know

02 Feb Medical Marijuana Laws In Georgia: What You Need To Know

For over eight decades, the debate over the Cannabis plant and the medicinal and recreational benefits of Marijuana has remained a hotly contentious topic. Despite its outlawing in 1937 with the Marijuana Tax Act, Cannabis activists have remained staunchly opposed to government interference over an industry and substance that has zero direct fatalities as a result of drug use. Many point to the failures of the Prohibition, which did nothing to curb alcohol use and actually lead to increases in criminal activity and power due to the black market demand, which was in turn met by gangs, criminal organizations and bootleggers. In 1969, 31% of Americans supported legalization of marijuana. Today, 64% of Americans support legalization, according to Gallup, Civic Science and General Social Survey, polls. This support is also bi-partisan with both the majority of liberals and conservatives supporting change. What was once a minority or radical opinion has morphed, especially as more and more citizens have realized the unmitigated failure of the “War on Drugs,” with billions of dollars seemingly wasted on policing, enforcing and jailing of United States citizens, all the while the Cartels power, wealth and influence continued to increase.

Despite growing popularity and widespread use, Marijuana is still scheduled as class 1 Drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency and enforced thusly. The three characteristics of a schedule 1 drug are:

  1.     The Drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  2.     The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.
  3.     There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision.

Other Schedule 1 drugs include: Crystal Meth, Heroin, Ecstasy, Bathsalts and Methaqualone. Seeing that the DEA refused to budge on this absurd classification, States decided to take it into their own hands and pass laws that legalized possession, sale and use of Marijuana in some shape or form.

Haleigh’s Hope

By 2015, 23 states had passed some sort of medicinal marijuana act in their state, allowing medical patients to access CBD and THC strains without state law enforcement interference. The movement to follow suit in Georgia began with the story of Haleigh Cox. Haleigh Cox, the little girl who became the face of Georgia’s medical marijuana bill, had her first seizure at 8 months. When doctors performed a CT scan, they found extensive damage to her brain and diagnosed her with intractable epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy, meaning she would never walk or talk and her seizures, a deadly type known as infantile spasms, would only get worse and increase in frequency. At its worst, she was suffering hundreds of seizures each day and the powerful cocktail of doctor recommended drugs she was taking were not making any difference in mitigating the seizures. Her condition was worsening to the point that she was given 3 months to live by experts. Desperate, Janea Cox flew Haleigh to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where doctors gave Haleigh five daily doses of CBD oil, (which is non-psychotropic, meaning you do not experience the THC “high”) and almost instantly, her seizures were dramatically reduced. The Cox family had found their miracle elixir, the only problem though was, in their home state, that miracle oil was outlawed and considered by the DEA to be extremely dangerous with absolutely no medicinal benefits. In Georgia, possession of CBD could mean serious jail time, in fact, it could possibly result in Haleigh being removed from a “dangerous household.” The Cox’s predicament and Haleigh’s story touched the hearts of many Georgians so much so on April 2, 2015, Georgia’s Governor, Nathan Deal signed into law the Haleigh Hope Act, the very first push by legislators to pass any sort of medical marijuana legislation in the state.

While a step forward, this new law simply allows registered/qualified patients and their caregivers to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low-THC oil with their doctors’ recommendations. However, it does not allow or provides sick patients with safe or legal access to THC oil, rather, the users are seemingly expected to illegally smuggle the oil back over state lines from states in which medical marijuana can be produced legally, which is a serious violation of federal law. Realistically, Georgia’s new medical marijuana law does not, in fact, legalize the production or sale of marijuana, it simply decriminalizes possession by those qualified individuals.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for medical status, a patient must suffer from one of the following illnesses and receive a medical recommendation from a medical expert.

  1.     AIDS either severe or end stage
  2.     ALS either severe or end stage
  3.     Alzheimer’s disease either severe or end stage
  4.     Autism (all patients over 18 qualify, under 18 must be diagnosed as severe)
  5.     Cancer, when the disease is severe or end stage OR treatment produces wasting or nausea and vomiting
  6.     Crohn’s disease
  7.     Epidermolysis bullosa
  8.     Mitochondrial disease
  9.     MS either severe or end stage
  10.  Parkinson’s disease either severe or end stage
  11.  Peripheral neuropathy either severe or end stage
  12.  Seizure disorders related to epilepsy or head trauma
  13.  Sickle Cell disease either severe or end stage
  14.  Tourette’s Syndrome that is severe

Rules For Those Qualified

In order to qualify for exemption from prosecution for possessing medical marijuana oil in Georgia potential candidates must obey the following 4 conditions:

  1.     The citizen in possession of the oil must be registered with the Georgia Department of Public Health and must have a registration card on their person when carrying CBD oil.
  2.     If the patient is under 18 years of age, then the parent or guardian must carry a state identification card which labels them as the patient’s caregiver.
  3.     The medical marijuana oil must contain no more than 5% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and it must contain an amount of CBD (cannabidiol) that is at least equal to the amount of THC.
  4.     The low THC oil must be in a pharmaceutical container, and the label must clearly state the percentage of THC contained therein.
  5.     The patient may possess no more than 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil.

How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Georgia

The only way to obtain a card is by visiting a physical with whom you have established a prior doctor-patient relationship. The physician can recommend or prescribe the patient to use CBD oil if you meet the qualifying conditions of: Auto Immune Disorder, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, Cancer, Crohn’s, Epidermolysis bullosa, Mitochondrial disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Peripheral neuropathy, Seizure disorders related to epilepsy or head trauma, Sickle Cell disease and Tourette’s Syndrome. If the patient is under 18, a parent or legal guardian must accompany them. Each parent or guardian is able to apply for a separate card, although that will require an additional printing fee for a second card. 

If qualified, the physician will send an application for the Low THC Registry Card. There are two forms, which must be signed by both the patient and the doctor. First, a waiver form, second, a physician certification form. The physician is able to retain the original wavier and certification form in their patient’s medical records. They will then submit these forms electronically to the Georgia Department of Public Health, who will in turn evaluate the case and, if approved, produce a LOW THC Oil Registry Card for the patient.

When the card is ready, generally within 15 days, the patient will be notified by a representative of the Department of Public Health and they will choose which public health offices they would prefer to pick up your card from. Upon pick up, you will pay the Office of Vital Records a $25 fee for the production of the card. This card will be valid for two years from the date of issue and the expiration date will be on the front of the LTRC card. You are allowed to laminate this card (as long as the security features remain visible) in order to protect or preserve it, but you are not allowed to make any other alterations to the card.

Once the time has expired you will be required to once again meet with your doctor and request a new card. He or she will perform a check up; consult with you on the effect of the CBD oil and recommend a new card if they see fit.   

If you misplace or lose your LTRC, you may contact the State Office of Vital Records at 404-679-4702. If your card is still valid, the state will contact your doctor in order to confirm that you remain under their provision and do indeed need the CBD oil. Once confirmation takes place, a replacement card will be provided within 15 business days. You will be able to pick up at the convenient Public Health Office, where you will be required to pay a $25 replacement fee.

If any of the information on your LTRC are incorrect or out of date, contact the State Office of Vital Records. They will in turn verify your information with your doctor. If the doctor does not have the most up to date information, you will be required to speak with them and provide the salient information. After, a new card will be issued to you.

Where Can I Get CBD Oil Once I Have Received My Certification?

The major flaw of this law is that it does not in any way help patients obtain their needed medicine, it simply exempts them from criminalization for possession. Therefore, the majority of patients order their medicinal CBD oil from out of state medical producers. It is important to pick reputable producers that have their products labeled and tested. You also can travel to states where it is legal and from there either transport it or mail it back to your address in Georgia. Again, though, there is a slight possibility of federal interference.   

Laws For the Non-Qualified

If you are caught with low THC oil, but are not a registered patient or do not have your card with you, you can face legal issues. If you possess less than 20 fluid ounces of CBD oil, it is a misdemeanor, while 20 or more fluid ounces is a felony. That said, it really remains up in the air whether or not law enforcement would be willing to take the time to enforce or prosecute such a small amount, especially since CBD oil is viewed in a much more positive light by enforcement agencies than more THC laden plants.

According to Georgian laws, the possession, sale, trafficking, or cultivation of marijuana is illegal. Georgia’s laws are relatively strict in comparison to other states, although several counties within the state provide alternative sentencing programs for offenders in favor of treatment over jailing. Possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Georgia with the possibility of one year in jail or $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 1 ounce, but less than 10 pounds is considered trafficking, a felony with potential jail time of 1-10 years. Possession of more than 10-2000 pounds of marijuana carries a mandatory 5-year prison sentence and $100,000 fine. Possession of 2000-10,000 pounds carries a 7-year prison sentence. Over 10,000 pounds carries a mandatory 15-year prison sentence with a $1,000,000 fine.

Note: Even for states with legal marijuana, possession and sale of cannabis retains its illegal status under the federal law and the Controlled Substance Act. In engagements between state and federal laws, the federal law always trumps the state law and the federal government retains authority to enforce its laws if it so chooses.

If you need CBD oil for a medical condition, be sure to take the proper steps in order that you protect yourself from any negative legal actions.

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