Following a decision by the Solicitor General of Gwinnett County to no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases, the Gwinnett County Police Department said officers will no longer make custodial arrests or issue citations for crimes related to misdemeanor amounts of marijuana.
The decision from the Solicitor General came in response to the Georgia Hemp Farming Act, which became law on May 10, 2019. The law allows for hemp plants containing THC to be produced by licensed growers and possessed by individuals.
GCPD spokesman Sgt. Jake Smith said in a press release Monday that the new law presents an enforcement issue for officers.
"The issue with enforcement arises from determining the difference between legal hemp and illegal marijuana," Smith said. "They are identical by smell and sight, even under a microscope."
Under the new law, hemp must have a THC concentration of 0.3% or less to be legal.
"Typical marijuana smoked or ingested to produce a high has a THC concentration of around 10% - 15%...high grade marijuana may have a THC concentration of 25% - 35%," Smith said. "The testing methods currently used by the GCPD and GBI crime labs only test for the presence of THC and not for the concentration of THC. There is currently not a court acceptable test that can differentiate between hemp and marijuana."
Smith said the GBI is researching methods and technologies to address this issue. GCPD will take its cues from the state when it comes to testing.
Smith said GCPD will continue to pursue crimes related to felony amounts of marijuana. He said felony cases would be reviewed by the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office on a case-by-case basis.
Smith said the department still wants people in the county to remember that possession and use of marijuana is illegal. He side the police department will continue to work with the Solicitor’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, the GBI and any other affected agencies to resolve the testing issue as quickly as possible.