hemp plant leaves

Georgia’s New Hemp Law Prompts Some Jurisdictions to Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Cases

New legislation recently signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp that legalizes hemp in Georgia has created a problem for Georgia prosecutors who say cops can’t tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

In May, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s Hemp Farming Act. The legislation legalized the growth and sale of hemp. Federally, hemp contains 0.3 percent of THC or lower. The amount of THC present is what contributes to feeling high.

Since the legislation was signed on May 10, it has led to confusion about prosecuting marijuana cases. Law enforcement can test for the presence of THC but aren’t able to test for the amount. That means they wouldn’t be able to tell if a substance was illegal marijuana or legalized hemp. And so far, a number of jurisdictions have decided to not pursue marijuana cases.

Gwinnett County

Gwinnett’s Solicitor General Brian Whiteside announced the county would no longer prosecute marijuana cases that happened after May 10. Whiteside said the county had already thrown out hundreds and planned to toss more.

“There’s no point now that we can say there’s a legitimate test that shows what the THC levels are in a plan,” he said.

In the following days, Gwinnett police announced they would no longer arrest people or issue citations for misdemeanor cases. But Whiteside and police said you can still be arrested for driving under the influence if THC is found in your bloodstream.

Cobb County

Cobb Solicitor General Barry Morgan followed shortly after and said there would be no “blanket dismissal” of the marijuana cases in the county. Morgan said the possession of marijuana in any amount is illegal in Georgia and any charges in the county will be handled on a case by case basis.

Police Chief Tim Cox sent an email to his department that said, “arresting someone for misdemeanor marijuana possession is not recommended.” Cox told his officers that effective immediately any amounts of marijuana would be sent to an evidence unit to be destroyed, but a criminal charge wouldn’t be made.

Athens-Clarke County

Athens will handle possible marijuana cases a little differently from Cobb and Gwinnett. While they too lack equipment to test for THC concentration, they will hold on to the marijuana substance until testing is available.

Officers have been told to stop making physical arrests or issuing citations, instead they will confiscate the substance in question and write a police report. Once testing is available, if the THC level is above the legal limit, police will seek a warrant for the involved person.

“We hope that viable alternative testing equipment can be acquired and put in place for use by our officers relatively soon,” Chief of Police Cleveland Spruill said.

DeKalb County

The AJC reported DeKalb County has also joined in dismissing marijuana cases due to the state’s hemp farming act. In a statement to the paper, Solicitor General Donna Coleman Stribling said the county “will not proceed with any single-count marijuana cases occurring after the passage of this new law.”

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  1. Recently there has been a lot of chatter about a new no arrest policy announced in Cobb County. Subsequently, a lot of people are confused as to whether or not it s now okay to possess marijuana in Georgia. In August of 2019 some areas of Georgia announced that they would no longer arrest or prosecute people for minor possession of marijuana. It is important to understand that this does not mean possession of marijuana in Georgia is legal. However, for now you may get a break in some areas if caught with small amounts of marijuana.

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