Hundreds of new laws that Georgia legislators passed earlier this year are scheduled to go into effect on July 1. Here are a few laws you might want to know about.
House Bill 324 - Medical marijuana
In 2015, the Georgia General Assembly approved the use of low THC medical marijuana oil for certain ailments. This spring, legislators approved a way for the drug to be dispensed, which has been a legal problem for patients in the past.
The law allows up to six private companies to grow medical marijuana in the state and sets up a state board to license dispensaries.
Pharmacies are allowed to provide medical marijuana oil to patients, but it’s unclear how long it will take for them to do so.
The bill also licenses the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University to “produce, manufacture, and purchase low THC oil,” but it could be a while before the University can do so, due to regulations requiring approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
House Bill 346 - Protection from eviction
This law aims to protect renters from eviction by landlords when landlords retaliate against tenants who complain about poor living conditions. Under the new law, landlords who retaliate to complaints with eviction have to pay tenants a months rent, legal costs, an additional $500 and forgive any outstanding debts.
House Bill 218 - Eligibility requirements to receive the HOPE Scholarship while a Zell Miller Scholarship Scholar
The law changes the eligibility requirements for the HOPE scholarship — instead of being eligible for seven years after graduating high school or earning an equal qualification, students will be eligible for 10 years.
House Bill 217 - Needle exchange programs
This bill, sponsored by Athens Rep. Houston Gaines, protects needle exchange programs and their employees from certain offenses relating to hypodermic syringes and needles. Licensed professionals will now be able to sell, exchange and distribute syringes or needles for “legitimate medical purposes,” such as harm reduction counseling, referral services and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.
House Bill 282 - Preservance of sexual assault evidence
This law increases the amount of time that law enforcement agencies are required to preserve certain evidence of sexual assault from 10 years after the incident is reported. The law mandates the evidence shall be maintained “30 years from the date of arrest, or seven years from completion of sentence, whichever occurs last, and if no arrests, then for 50 years,” including DNA evidence of rapes.