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Athens police suspending misdemeanor marijuana arrests in wake of state Hemp Farming Act

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

A field of hemp

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department announced late Wednesday afternoon that it has suspended arresting and issuing citations to people who are found to be in possession of marijuana .The policy is being implemented due to “unanticipated consequences related to the implementation of the Georgia Hemp Farming Act” that was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp on May 10.

Marijuana being grown for medicinal purposes of its THC content

The announcement came two days after Gwinnett County police said that they would no longer be making custodial arrests or issuing citations for possession of misdemeanor quantities of marijuana because of the hemp farming act.

“GCPD will still pursue crimes related to felony amounts of marijuana,” Gwinnett PD stated in a press release. “Those cases will be reviewed by the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office on a case-by-case basis.”

After Classic City News on Tuesday asked the local police department if it would also be changing its policy regarding pot arrests, the Athens-Clarke County police Office of Public Information the following day issued the release announcing that the department will continue to seize suspected marijuana, write incident reports and place the leafy substance into evidence until tests are devised to determine the THC potency of the seized plant products.

Hemp is nearly identical to marijuana in all aspects, except for it having lower level of THC, the chemical which produces a high for consumers of the plant.

According to police, hemp contains a .3-percent or less level of THC. compared to higher concentrations of THC 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,” police stated in the release.

“Since current tests are unable to determine THC potency, they cannot distinguish between legal hemp and illegal marijuana,” the release stated. “Therefore, the tests are no longer viable for use in prosecution of marijuana cases”

According to Athens-Clarke County police, the GBI anticipates having updated testing equipment to distinguish hemp from marijuana by next month.

If any of the seized suspected marijuana that Athens police place into evidence during the arrest and citation suspension subsequently test positive for illegal levels of THC, then warrants would be issued for the arrests of the people from whom the marijuana was seized, according to police.

“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,” Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill stated in the police news release.

“We hope that viable alternative testing equipment can be acquired and put in place for use by our officers relatively soon,” Spruill said.

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