On Tuesday, a bill that passed a Georgia House committee would give police in the state the power to arrest people found possessing small amounts of green leafy substances, even when they cannot differentiate if it is legal hemp or illegal marijuana.
The legislation would consider it a crime to transport hemp plants without documents showing that the hemp was produced under a farming or processing license. The violators would be given the same punishment as that of misdemeanor marijuana crimes, such as a year in jail or a fine of $1,000.
The bill was approved through a voice vote by the House Agriculture Committee, and only two representatives opposed it. Very soon, the legislation, House Bill 847, might receive a vote in the full House. It would then be forwarded to the state Senate.
The proposal follows the approval of hemp farming in 2019, making it possible for people to grow hemp for CBD oil. CBD oil is popular for its healing properties, and Georgia currently imports it from other states. Hemp is non-psychoactive as it contains less than 0.3% of THC.
After a number of metro Atlanta municipalities and counties stopped arresting people for simple marijuana offenses, the police and prosecutors had to look for a way to enforce marijuana offenses. In terms of appearance, hemp and marijuana are similar; thus, the police would have to test to determine the plant status.
The executive director for the Council of Georgia prosecuting Attorney, Pete Skandalkis, said that treating any green leafy substance as hemp would be considered as marijuana decriminalization. Skandalkis then noted that it is not what the legislature wants.
Marijuana advocates said that the lawmakers should not make hemp a crime. They also noted that they are concerned that the police might interpret the legislation to broadly prosecute people for possessing CBD oil and raw hemp plants.
The police should spend money and time conducting tests for the THC content if they concerned about enforcing the law for misdemeanor weed possession, Mazie Lynn Causey said. Causey is a lobbyist for the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Georgia.
Causey further said that the police would be criminalizing legal substances as it would be treating hemp as marijuana when prosecuting people.
The bill sponsor, State Rep. John Corbett, said that for hemp cultivation to begin in Georgia, the legislation must be approved. The bill would also make the state of Georgia comply with the federal regulations while clarifying that the people can grow hemp in greenhouses and sell it.
The state’s Agriculture Chairman, Tom McCall, said that the state should have allowed hemp cultivation several months back because farmers are getting antsy.
State Rep. Scott Turner, who is a Republican from Holly Springs, opposed the bill and said that the police could seize the assets of people found possessing hemp as they do for those found possessing marijuana.
State Rep. Matthew Wilson, who is a Democrat from Brookhaven, questioned why the state would make hemp possession a crime after the federal government approved it and passed laws and regulations excluding it from the list of controlled substances.
Hemp businesses told the House committee that the cultivation of hemp would start in the state of Georgia as soon as the lawmakers approve the appropriate legislation. McCall noted that the bill could be amended in the Senate. However, analysts predict that the entire hemp industry, including entities like HTC Extraction Systems (TSX.V: HTC) (OTCQB: HTPRF) will be unhappy that Georgia is taking a step back by considering legislation that doesn’t recognize that hemp is different from marijuana.
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