The key difference between hemp and marijuana is the level of THC, the chemical that produces the high associated with marijuana. Law enforcement agencies didn’t have technology to test THC levels and the GBI only accepts felony quantities for THC testing. Legally grown hemp can have no more than 0.3% THC.
In theory, a defendant charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession could argue they simply had hemp.
Because last year’s bill to allow hemp farming didn’t explicitly address the legality of hemp possession by everyday residents, Whiteside and Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said it legalized hemp by default. Without the ability to prove what was hemp and what was marijuana, there wasn’t enough evidence to make convictions, the prosecutors argued.
Gwinnett was the first county to halt misdemeanor marijuana prosecution, with counties including Cobb, DeKalb and Richmond following. Police departments in counties including Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb stopped making misdemeanor marijuana arrests because they would not be prosecuted. Some officers even gave suspects their marijuana back.
This interpretation was not universally adopted, and solicitors in counties including Hall and Cherokee reaffirmed their commitment to prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases.
HB 847, sponsored by Rep. John Corbett, R-Lake Park, also puts Georgia in compliance with federal hemp regulations and explicitly allows colleges to process and research hemp.
The bill passed 157-9 and must be approved by the Senate before reaching the governor’s desk.
Less than 24 hours after two confirmed cases of the coronavirus in metro Atlanta were announced, Channel 2 Action News took questions about the virus straight to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.