The Solicitor in Hall County says her office will continue to prosecute marijuana cases: this, after announcements from police in Athens and a prosecutor in Gwinnett County that potential confusion over marijuana testing will lead them, for now, to suspend marijuana arrests and prosecutions. At issue is a new Georgia law that legalizes hemp: the field test for marijuana doesn’t distinguish between marijuana and hemp. Hall County Solicitor Stephanie Woodard (pictured above) says marijuana cases will still be prosecuted in Gainesville.
The Athens-Clarke County Police Department issued the following statement earlier this week…
In light of the unanticipated consequences related to the implementation of the Georgia Hemp Farming Act, signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp on May 10, 2019, the AthensClarke County Police Department (ACCPD) has provided direction to its officers concerning the handling of marijuana cases. The Georgia Hemp Farming Act legalizes the possession of hemp, which is nearly identical to marijuana in all aspects, with the exception being a lower percentage of THC in hemp (.3% or less) compared to higher concentrations of THC found in marijuana. The new law has raised concern because tests currently used by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab, as well as the ACCPD, only detect for the presence of THC and not for THC potency. Since current tests are unable to determine THC potency, they cannot distinguish between legal hemp and illegal marijuana. Therefore, the tests are no longer viable for use in prosecution of marijuana cases. The GBI anticipates having updated testing equipment in place by early September that will test for THC potency and be capable of distinguishing between legal hemp and illegal marijuana. The GBI, ACCPD, and other Georgia law enforcement agencies continue to evaluate testing equipment and other solutions that can be used at the local level. Until such time as updated testing equipment is acquired and certified for use, ACCPD officers will discontinue making physical arrests or issuing summonses for marijuana charges. Instead, officers will seize the suspected marijuana, place it into evidence, and will write the appropriate police report. Once updated testing equipment is acquired and in place at the GBI Lab and at the ACCPD, it is our intent that all suspected marijuana evidence that has been seized by the ACCPD will be tested and officers will seek warrants where the evidence is found to contain more than .3% THC.
“The ACCPD is working closely with the GBI, our District Attorney, and the ACC Solicitor General to monitor this situation, as well as to identify and implement solutions,” said ACCPD Chief of Police Cleveland Spruill. “We hope that viable alternative testing equipment can be acquired and put in place for use by our officers relatively soon.”
In the interim, ACCPD would like to remind citizens that possession, distribution, and trafficking of marijuana remains illegal in the state of Georgia and that marijuana laws will continue to be enforced by the ACCPD.