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Changes in Georgia Marijuana and Hemp Laws

Posted by Sean A. Black | Jul 09, 2024 | 0 Comments

Legislation from 2024 will have a significant impact on the legality of some cannabis products in Georgia.  It is worth noting that the area continues to have some degree of uncertainty, but the maturing regulations should give some certainty to growers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers.  The testing regime should also give some certainty to end users.  End users should continue to be cautious in the use of cannabis products, particularly where driving is involved, as many law enforcement officers still appear to be prepared to charge drivers for DUI based on the use or suspected use of cannabis products.  Persons should be especially cautious about crossing state lines with cannabis products, even if the other state has also legalized hemp products.

This year's bill is Senate Bill 494

Licenses Required for Manufacturers, Distributors and Retailers

Previously, growers had to be licensed, but there were no licenses for other actors in the hemp space.  Now, manufacturers, distributors and retailers will need licenses from the Georgia Department of Agriculture to lawfully deal with hemp products.  Labs that test hemp products will also require Georgia licenses.

Those found to be conducting hemp business without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor.  Repeat infractions will constitute misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature.  Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 base fine.

Lab Testing Required of Hemp Products

All consumable hemp products must be tested by a licensed laboratory and cannot be sold without a "full panel certificate of analysis."  The certificate for each product must be updated annually.  It must measure the total amount of THC, CBD, CBDA, CBG, CBGA, CBN, HHC and other compounds identified by the Department of Agriculture.  That panel certificate may be printed on the product or be available by a QR code.

Age Limits and Advertising Restrictions

Consumable hemp products cannot be sold to anyone under 21.  It will be illegal for a person under the age of 21 years to purchase or possess consumable hemp products. Hemp retailers will be required to post notices in the store regarding age limits, similar to those required for alcohol retailers.  Again, violations are misdemeanors.  The maximum base fine is $500.

THCA Products Get the Axe

THCA products will likely disappear from Georgia.  This is accomplished not by making that compound illegal but by including it in the calculation of THC content.  As a reminder, the THC content cannot exceed 0.03% by volume for hemp products.  Testing of products must certify that the sample has undergone decarboxylation such that all delta-9-THCA in the sample has been converted to delta-9-THC or by separately determining the combined amount of THC-delta-9 and delta-9-THCA with the latter substance being multiplied by 0.877.  The legislation has the bonus effect of solidifying arguments that THCA was legal during the time prior to the effective date of SB 494.

Legality of Edibles Clarified

There has been some confusion in the last couple of years about the legality of some consumable hemp products.  It seems that the legislature has determined that delta-8 and delta-10 are not controlled substances, whether in edible products or not.  So long as the edible substances contain less than 0.3% delta-9-THC, they should not be treated as controlled substances.  However, hemp-infused food products will now be illegal.  Brownies, cookies, candy and other snack foods infused with hemp are examples of products that will not be legal.  Gummies will be legal as they are not considered to have enough nutritional value to be consumed for physical subsistence.

Flower and Leaf Products Banned

A recurring issue over the last couple of years has been whether hemp flower and leaf can be sold.  It creates an issue for law enforcement since it is impossible to distinguish hemp and marijuana flower and leaves on the side of the road.  By making hemp flower and leaf illegal, So, if that is the case, then possession by an individual of the flower and leaf of cannabis sativa L. plant will be a crime, regardless of the total delta-9-THC concentration. 

A complicating factor is that at the same time, the legislature stated that this provision of the law would not prohibit the sale of any hemp products that include extracts or derivatives of the flower or leaves of the hemp plant.  So, the question is whether a manufacturer can take a flower or leaf and spray it with extracts or derivatives and, thereby, make it legal.  My guess is that the Department of Agriculture will resist such efforts and such products will not be produced without significant litigation.

Conclusion

The reality is that many of these products will still exist in a gray area of the law.  Consumers of these products should, with the testing regime, have more confidence that the product that they are purchasing at Georgia retailers does actually comply with Georgia law.  There will continue to be skepticism from law enforcement that these products are non-impairing.

About the Author

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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