Public Support for Medical Marijuana in Georgia Increases

Georgia Medical Marijuana LawsAccording to a recent poll from ‘Georgians For Freedom in Healthcare,’ as much as 84.5 percent of respondents support expanding the state’s medical marijuana laws to include state-sponsored cultivation and production. But Governor Nathan Deal is skeptical about the benefits of an expanded medical marijuana program and the potential problems it could cause for law enforcement.

With the passage of House Bill 1 sponsored by Republican Representative Allen Peake, Georgia officially declared the legality of medical marijuana, even though this statute comes with sweeping limitations on which patients can acquire the product and how they can actually buy it. According to the current version of the law, patients cannot obtain the medication here in Georgia, but must find some kind of legal loophole to ship the prescription from a state like Colorado.

Lawmakers set up a committee to determine whether Georgia should expand its current role to allow in-state cultivation, but this proposal was met with overwhelming criticism from Governor Deal. In early December 2015, the Georgia Commission on Medical Cannabis decided that doctor-approved marijuana use would stay in effect, but the state would take no role in its production. According to Governor Deal, “the law enforcement component [of the proposal] causes me to have more concerns than I did before.”

Already, law enforcement officials are running into some problems, like a Massachusetts patient that was approved for marijuana use in his home state, but was still arrested for medicinal cannabis possession in Athens, Georgia in October 2015. In this case, the individual was a licensed medical marijuana patient in another jurisdiction, yet judges refused to recognize that he could retain this status when he crossed state borders. This could make for a confusing legal precedent because Georgia is in fact a medical marijuana state.

How does this affect the criminal justice system? Federal prohibition of the drug in conjunction with widely varying state regulations results in extreme difficulty in establishing the correct jurisdiction and applying relevant case law.

Police officers and other law enforcement officials across the state of Georgia are already hesitant of the state’s newfound cannabis acceptance. Not only do they fear that public acceptance will lead to an increase in the number of marijuana users, but that the number of impaired drivers could climb as well. While there are no roadside marijuana screenings, drivers can be subject to blood tests.

It should be noted that the presence of marijuana or THC in the bloodstream is not necessarily illegal, because many individuals actually require the medication for health reasons. Also, traces of the drug could remain in the body for weeks after consumption, so there is not always a causal connection between positive marijuana results in blood samples and a driver’s behavior on the road. To be convicted of marijuana-DUI, prosecutors need to prove that marijuana consumption was directly related to a driver’s impairment, not for its presence in a blood sample.

For more information about how Georgia lawmakers are changing medical marijuana rules, speak with a criminal defense lawyer today at The Burnett Firm.