Judge extends injunction against Gwinnett DA’s cannabis product ban

Delta-8 THC is sold in stores such as the Georgia Hemp Company, but its legality isn't spelled out in state law.

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Delta-8 THC is sold in stores such as the Georgia Hemp Company, but its legality isn't spelled out in state law.

A Fulton County judge Friday granted an injunction that prevents Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson from enforcing a ban on products containing hemp-derived substances, including delta-8 THC, while litigation proceeds to determine whether they are legal.

Judge Charles M. Eaton’s decision extends a 30-day temporary restraining order that had been granted March 18.

“Our clients are relieved that they won’t be prosecuted for selling what is a legal product, and they won’t have to be afraid of police officers in Gwinnett County raiding their businesses and seizing their property,” said Page Pate, an attorney representing two Gwinnett County vape store owners who sued Austin-Gaston and the state of Georgia after Austin-Gatson announced and began to enforce a ban on delta-8 and delta-10 THC.

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Austin-Gaston could not be reached Friday for comment.

The cannabis extracts, usually derived from hemp, are similar to the main intoxicating ingredient in marijuana but cause milder highs. They are typically sold in vape cartridges, tinctures, gummies and other edibles. Some people use them as sleep aids, or pain or stress relievers.

The injunction prohibits Austin-Gatson from prosecuting sellers of delta-8 or delta-10 THC, and from seizing products or money from them. The district attorney’s task force already seized more than $2 million worth of product, including about $300,000 worth of delta-8 edibles, and more than $220,000 in cash from a distributor, court documents said.

The injunction also applies to products containing cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN) or cannabigerol (CBG.)

Sass Group and Great Vape, which operate several stores throughout Gwinnett County, are asking Fulton County Superior Court to rule hemp-derived cannabinoids legal in Georgia.

At issue are recent federal and state laws that legalized hemp products with less than a certain concentration of delta-9 THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but are silent on similar chemical compounds including delta-8 and delta-10.

The store owners argue the compounds are legal in Georgia as long as they’re made from hemp plants and don’t contain prohibited levels of delta-9. But Austin-Gatson, in announcing her ban, said delta-8 and delta-10 are illegal because the laws don’t explicitly allow them, as they do low concentrations of delta-9.

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Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr moved to have the Gwinnett store owners’ case dismissed, but the court on Tuesday denied that motion.

Eaton’s order issued Friday said a Madison County Superior Court Judge ruled delta-8 gummies are legal in Georgia after a store there was raided last year.

Austin-Gatson did not provide any evidence that delta-8 or delta-10 products harmed anyone in Gwinnett County, according to the order.

Sass Group and Great Vape’s stores in Gwinnett could go out of business if the district attorney’s ban continues, the order said, adding seizures from the distributor could affect business in neighboring counties that do not have delta-8 or delta-10 bans.

“Consumers will be unsure of whether they may be subject to arrest for possession of the same products they have believed to be legally available for at least two years,” Eaton said in the order.