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Below is the Legal Update from Walker Chandler regarding the state of the industry in Georgia presently
CANNABIS IN GEORGIA
Past, Present, and Future
I am writing this short paper in May of 2016. It is provided for the purpose of education, planning, and warning to the friends and clients of the Chandler and Chandler Law Group of Atlanta, Georgia. For the purposes of this account, the term cannabis will be used and will refer in a general way to both major strains of that plant, ie: sativ and indica. Also note that the term THC refers to the main psychoactive ingredient that is found among the numerous and complex compounds found in cannabis.
It is not necessary to repeat here the long, sad, and almost-incredible history of cannabis prohibition in the United States in general and Georgia in particular. Such a general history may be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_history_of_cannabis_in_the_United_States
As a passing note for those unfamiliar with the plant, it is also known as hemp and has been a source of food, fiber, and medicine for thousands of years.
Georgia did not specifically make cannabis illegal prior to 1935. As I often point out in public talks, it was made illegal by an all-white, all male, largely liquor-drinking General Assembly completely controlled by the Democrat Party. Those men didn’t know what they were doing and didn’t care. Since then several generations of legislators who could have, should have, and often did know better have come and gone. The prohibition of marijuana in Georgia has resulted in the abuse, humiliation, impoverishment, and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Georgians during the ensuing 71 years. It also resulted in many years of propaganda and fear-mongering in the educational systems of the state, and thereby “trained” the voters to support only those who proposed harsh penalties on those who possessed, grew, sold, or even gave away cannabis.
When so-called marijuana [ the Mexican name for the plant] began being popular among white, middle-class, college-age young people in the late 1960’s, the General Assembly reduced the possession of less than an ounce to be a misdemeanor rather than a felony as had been the case previously. A misdemeanor conviction could still result in up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
In an additional act of cruelty, the General Assembly also passed laws that revoked drivers’’ licenses for those convicted of simple or felony possession even if such possession was entirely unrelated to driving vehicles. That law was rescinded only recently.
In approximately 1983 when it became clear that there were at least a few medical uses for cannabis, Georgia passed its first medical marijuana law, but provided no means whereby the medical community could do anything with it.
Federally, notwithstanding a long history of medical use of cannabis, cannabis was arbitrarily scheduled as a Schedule I drug with “no medical use”. That long-standing, unscientific and politically-driven scheduling is at long last under reconsideration, perhaps due in part to the president being a former marijuana user and (probably) dealer himself when he lived in Hawaii.
In the mid 1990’s Georgia began letting municipalities handle misdemeanor marijuana cases—something which I consider simply a way of giving them licences to steal money from hapless victims of this wicked, modern Prohibition which those elected officials who know better should have taken steps to dismantle. Of course, that would have taken courage and leadership.
In 1990 Georgia passed a law to drug-test state employees. That law was struck down as violative of the 4th Amendment by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1993.
At the same time as the 1990 law was passed, Georgia also passed a law saying that candidates for public office would have to pass drug tests ( but not intelligence or ethics tests) in order to appear on election ballots. The Libertarian Party of Georgia formally objected to that law, and in 1994 three of its candidates for statewide office filed suit against that law in federal court.
I was the lead plaintiff and brought the case on 4th Amendment, search-and-seizure grounds as well as First Amendment grounds. In my opinion, the law was what I called a William Tell law, wherein candidates were being required to take off their hats to the hoisted symbol of drug war on the government’s pole.
We lost in the District Court, and got a 2-1 unfavorable decision in the 11th Circuit . I asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the case . They agreed that it was a vital issue to con. I argued the case myself. The Court agreed with me and by an 8-1 decision held on the 4th Amendment grounds that the candidate drug-testing law was unconstitutional. The Court did not reach the 1st Amendment issue.
In recent years some of the members of the General Assembly have realized that the mess begun in 1935 needs to be undone, but of course, few of them are willing to lose an election doing what is morally right.
During the last two sessions of the General Assembly the issue of medical use of marijuana has been studied and re-studied and discussed almost endlessly by elected officials am members of the state government charged with matters of public health.
Throughout these processes the Georgia Department of Public Health is forward-looking. It has been studying what is being done in Colorado. It has already promulgated in its Rules its CHAPTER 511-5-11, a LOW THC OIL PATIENT REGISTRY.
Opposition, of course, is predictable and loud from the law enforcement, probation, incarceration, and drug-testing industries who back up the those who believe one of the purposes of government is to regulate and control the common people.
BUT, the tipping point has been reached. Several states and the District of Columbia—the nation’s capitol—have legalized not only medical use of cannabis , but also Adult Use. And the skies of Washington and those of the states of Washington and Colorado have not fallen.
ALSO, polls show that not only does a majority of Georgians want medical marijuana made legal in this state, but also it wants Adult Use to be legal. That majority is going to grow. And where the votes go, so too shall the politicians—either that or they will be voted out.
At Chandler and Chandler we foresee that Georgia will soon have to consider each of the following issues and areas of regulation and empowerment. Our firm, working with our friends and connections in the private sector and government both here in Georgia and nationwide will be in a position to advise and help these transitions to more workable and benign systems arising from changing public policies.
The main stumbling-block to a system of permitted , regulated medical will be the licensing and regulation of supply. There will undoubtedly be many large concerns that will be lobbying for a limited, monopolistic pattern which will favor big companies and prohibit small-scale growing and production. Such a proposal was thought to be the main reason a vote on medical failed in Ohio earlier this year.
Undoubtedly there will be licensed , in-state production of cannabis from which medical products ( such as THC-rich CBD oils) will be derived.
Regulation will also concern the establishment of a system of a limited number of dispensaries or may even have proposals to license only existing drugstores. There will be much backroom negotiations on this sort of issue. A failure to agree in such back rooms may further delay passage despite the public clamor for change.
Regulation will also be formulated with respect to delivery methods, permissions, security, taxation, and reliable potencies. I suspect that the Department of Public Health will suggest the wholesale adoption of systems currently in place elsewhere in the United States but that lobbyists will be having a field day trying to influence the various clients they represent—clients who will want to get limited licenses and hamper their competition.
Many of the same issue discussed under Medical Use will apply to Adult Use.
The major questions that will arise will be centered around the right to grow cannabis on a small-scale basis for personal consumption. Expect the lobbyists to fight that.
Another major area of future regulatory concern will be ( at least initially) , the licensing of hemp as a field crop that will yield fiber for paper, building materials and cloth, seed for food and oil, among other uses.
I should think that the Farm Bureau and the state’s paper industries will soon fall in behind a drive for a hemp industry here in Georgia to feed our insatiable mills and bring to a merciful close the current , shameful practices of clear-cutting wildlife habitat for the purposes of “biomass” power generation, paper making, and similar uses to which hemp is much more suitable.