In the past decade, public opinion on medical and recreational marijuana legalization has seen a major shift, with a majority of Americans supporting legalization as of last year. In the wake of this shift, 11 states have legalized recreational use and 33 have legalized medical marijuana. Georgia legislature joined the trend in legalizing medical marijuana this past April. However, the few qualified recipients still face major hurdles when purchasing the substance. In addition, in December 2018, the federal government legalized the sale of products derived from hemp, a cannabis plant with 0.3% or less of the psychoactive ingredient THC. Due to the combination of these state-level marijuana restrictions along with the federal legalization of hemp, CBD products have skyrocketed in the past several months, popping up as ingredients in everyday items like coffee and ice cream as well as entire storefronts dedicated to all things CBD.
But first, what is CBD? And, more importantly, is it legal to purchase, use, and possess in Georgia?
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and is a prominent chemical in cannabis plants including hemp and marijuana, along with THC. However, unlike pure THC, CBD does not appear to have “psychotropic” effects. More simply, it won’t get you high. But, to make things complicated, CBD products made from hemp claim to contain as much as 0.3% THC. Further, the CBD industry is not currently regulated, so these claims and the actual THC levels in products are unpredictable.
So, how does this fit in with current Georgia law? According to GA Code § 16-12-191, only qualified, registered recipients of medical hemp and marijuana may legally possess a limited amount of low THC oil. These recipients are defined under GA Code § 31-2A-18. Additionally, under GA Code § 16-12-191, anyone who isn’t a registered medical recipient and possesses 20 fluid ounces or less of low THC oil will face a misdemeanor, while possession of more than 20 fluid ounces is a felony.
Essentially, it is illegal to possess or use any amount or form of THC under current Georgia law—unless you are a registered medical recipient of the substance. Many CBD stores and products advertise themselves as containing no THC. The problem with this is that, aside from testing the THC levels of these products, there is no way to substantiate these claims.
A recent newsworthy arrest highlights this problem. This past April, a 69-year-old great-grandmother was arrested and charged with a felony at Disney World after a police officer found CBD oil in her purse at a security checkpoint. She was prescribed the oil for her arthritis by her doctor back home in Tennessee. The 1-ounce bottle she carried with her claimed to contain zero milligrams of THC, but a police test of the oil showed differently when it came back positive for THC. Because her CBD oil was found to contain THC, the great-grandmother was arrested and escorted off the property. While the absurd event happened in Florida, the same legal restrictions on THC apply under Georgia law as well.
With the current CBD craze and Georgians having more access to these products than ever before, it is important to understand the legal risks and implications of purchasing and using CBD products. The use of any products that contain THC can affect Georgians’ lives in many ways—from failing a drug test to being charged with a Marijuana DUI. If possession or use of CBD products containing THC by you or another person has affected you in any way legally, contact the MG Law office for a free consultation.