Georgia’s new hemp law is forcing Gwinnett County to walk away from hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana cases.
What We Know:
- Gwinnett County Solicitor Brian Whiteside sent a memo to the county’s judges on Wednesday saying marijuana cases won’t be prosecuted in his office until lawmakers make changes to the recently enacted Hemp Farming Act.
- Prosecutors claim they don’t have the technology to tell the difference between illegal marijuana and legal hemp. “I think ethically and morally we can’t go forward,” Whiteside said.
- Whiteside said that any case filed since the Georgia hemp law went into effect May 10 won’t be prosecuted, according to WSB-TV. “We have almost 3,000 – 4,0000 cases a year in regard to that, easily,” he said.
- Georgia lawmakers made hemp legal this year. However, marijuana in any amount is still illegal. Police say marijuana and hemp are very similar. Trained officers and dogs cannot tell the difference and there is no test readily available for THC amounts, the chemical that gets you high. Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said felony cases have a longer statute of limitations, so he’s not tossing major drug cases.
- Last month, Illinois offered relief to around 770,000 residents with marijuana-related offenses on their criminal records. This news came after it became the 11th state to legalize marijuana. California, New Hampshire, Oregon, Colorado and Maryland have also made it easier for individuals convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have their records sealed or expunged.
- This issue does not only plague Gwinnett County. In Texas, most prosecutors in large counties are tossing out low-level marijuana cases or holding off on pursuing criminal charges. This happened because Gov. Greg Abbott redefined marijuana when he legalized hemp earlier this year. Also, the lack of testing resources cast too much reasonable doubt over criminal proceedings.
A spokesperson with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said each case should be handled on a case by case basis.