Prosecutors say they don’t have the technology to be able to tell the difference between illegal marijuana and legal hemp.
By Tia Mitchell
UPDATE: DeKalb Police provided the AJC with a statement on Thursday afternoon saying officers will no longer issue citations or arrest anyone on misdemeanor marijuana charges.
“Although possession of marijuana remains illegal, the DeKalb County Police Department will temporarily stop issuing citations or arresting anyone for possession of only misdemeanor amounts of marijuana,” the statement said.
The announcement came a day after DeKalb’s solicitor-general said she would dismiss cases involving a single count of misdemeanor marijuana possession. Both the police department and the solicitor-general’s office said they will continue to pursue cases involving additional charges beyond marijuana.
Citing the impact of Georgia’s new hemp law, DeKalb’s solicitor-general said she is joining colleagues in Gwinnett and Cobb counties in dismissing low-level marijuana cases.
“Marijuana charges are often submitted in conjunction with other charges, thus it is necessary to continue to review each case,” Solicitor-general Donna Coleman-Stribling’s said. “However, at this time, we will not proceed with any single-count marijuana cases occurring after the passage of this new law.”
Her statement was provided exclusively to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. People arrested in DeKalb for other matters in addition to misdemeanor marijuana possession could still be prosecuted.
The Hemp Farming Act was approved by the General Assembly earlier this year and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp. Law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have said that a new drug identification test is now needed to differentiate between legal hemp and illegal marijuana, which have similar attributes.
In the absence of such a test, Gwinnett police officers have stopped writing tickets or making arrests for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Prosecutors in Gwinnett and Cobb have also said they will dismiss such cases that come across their desks.
Coleman-Stribling said that even before the hemp law’s passage her office was already processing many marijuana cases through a diversion program that allowed offenders to avoid prosecution. She said she will continue to study the effects of the hemp law and make additional changes if necessary.
Read the original story on AJC.com.