Cobb stops misdemeanor pot arrests citing hemp law

Cobb County is the latest Georgia jurisdiction to suspend enforcement of some misdemeanor marijuana violations citing the state's new hemp law.

Earlier this year, Gov. Brian Kemp legalized hemp farming in Georgia. Hemp is a hardy, versatile crop and has been promoted by some as an economic development opportunity for rural areas.

However, hemp and marijuana are closely related and similar in smell and appearance, making it very difficult if not impossible for law enforcement to differentiate the two, officials say.

As a result, Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox recently announced his department would make “a temporary procedural change” until a “remedy” is found.

“After discussions with prosecutors, it appears that arresting someone for misdemeanor marijuana possession is not recommended,” Cox said in a statement. “As a result, effective immediately, any misdemeanor amounts of marijuana that an officer encounters will be confiscated and sent to the Evidence Unit to be destroyed. A criminal charge will not be made until a solution can be found to this dilemma.”

Meanwhile, Cobb Solicitor General Barry Morgan said there will be no wholesale dismissal of cases already underway, but new cases brought after the hemp bill was signed in May will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

“The GBI has told us they are working on finding a new test that could differentiate marijuana from hemp and cases will be held pending that,” Morgan said.