When Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s Hemp Farming Act in May, little did he know the ripple effects that this law would have regarding the prosecution of marijuana cases in the state. By law, hemp is defined as cannabis whose THC content is less than 0.3 percent while marijuana has a higher percentage of the psychoactive compound (and that is why users get high). With the enactment of the hemp cultivation law, prosecutors around the state are announcing changes to the way they handle low-level marijuana cases.
For example, the Solicitor General of Gwinnett County publicly announced that the county would no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases with effect from May 10, the day when the governor signed the hemp cultivation law. He added that the county had dropped hundreds of charges and would continue to do so.
However, the Solicitor General emphasized that people could still face charges for driving under the influence of marijuana since it was possible to detect THC in the blood.
Barry Morgan, the Solicitor General of Cobb County also revealed that the authorities would handle marijuana possession issues on a case by case basis, adding that the county couldn’t altogether abandon the prosecution of marijuana possession cases.
The police chief of the county responded to this communication by writing to the members of his department saying that “it isn’t recommended to arrest someone on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges.” This was construed to be an indirect instruction to stop making such arrests.
Athens-Clarke County opted for a different approach to handling low-level marijuana crime. Rather than stop prosecuting the cases indefinitely, the county has decided that its police officers will continue confiscating suspected marijuana and keep it until the county has equipment to test its THC concentration.
Once such equipment is available, the samples will be tested and those found to meet the legal definition of marijuana will result in criminal charges being levied against the person from whom the substance was confiscated.
It is clear from the above that each local authority has made its own decision regarding the way the prosecution of marijuana cases should change in light of the new hemp law. This lack of uniformity was first widely reported in Texas where the top political leaders scrambled to clarify that the hemp law hadn’t legalized or decriminalized marijuana.
Many experts believe that hemp industry players like Neutra Corp. (OTCQB: NTRR) and Organigram Holdings Inc. (TSX.V: OGI) (NASDAQ: OGI) may be uneasy about this disjointed response to hemp laws because the authorities could victimize people with hemp after mistaking it for marijuana.
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