Drugs are flowing through Georgia from Mexican cartels. The Drug Enforcement Administration has identified at least five cartels, far more than in most areas. Georgia's location is a hub for port entrance and distribution, along with land-based methamphetamine labs scattered among upscale neighborhoods and alongside public schools.
Apart from the danger of drug sales on school campuses, chemical explosions are an ever-present risk for young people. The quantity of drugs transported throughout the state is a difficult temptation for many who unwittingly tangle themselves in a net of drug use and trafficking.
Categories of drug charges and punishments in Georgia
Georgia's harsh drug laws reflect the magnitude of state-wide drug activity as a threat to the health and safety of all citizens:
- Trafficking – Moving large amounts of drugs generally occurs through international criminal organizations such as drug cartels or local state distributors with large transport operations. Federal sentencing for drug trafficking is extreme. Criminals at this level are responsible for immense harm to society.
- Manufacturing – Quantity determines the level of sentencing for drug lab activity. The intent is also a factor. There may be a difference in sentencing between certain drugs produced for large-scale distribution or small amounts grown for personal recreation. Non-drug producers can be criminally liable if they provide land for manufacturers to grow drug-related organics or rent out homes or warehouses to provide space for drug labs.
- Possession – Three main levels exist for possession: Simple possession for personal use, possession with intent to deal or deliver, and constructive possession controlled by a single person for large-scale distribution through a chain of individuals who may be unaware of the nature or illegality of the product.
- Dealing – Through media portrayals of drug dealers, the public's familiarity with the term may lead people to think sentencing is mild; however, even smaller amounts of drug sales can result in serious fines and years in jail. Larger drug sales can remand dealers to prison for life.
- Paraphernalia – People caught with possession of equipment designed for drug ingestion or lab processing can find themselves charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree, even though the items may be skillfully disguised as harmless, everyday items.
Exceptions leading to possible sentencing reductions
If a person arrested for a drug crime can provide information that enables law enforcement to capture and convict higher-level drug criminals, the informant may receive a reduced sentence. In cases where the defendant possesses a limited quantity of personal-use drugs or is a first-time offender in minor-level drug activity, the court expunges the crime if the defendant agrees to participate in a diversion program.