The state is getting ready to pass a bill that would allow Police to arrest people who have a small amount of leafy green substances in their possession regardless of whether it is hemp or marijuana.
The bill will make it illegal to transport hemp plants without paperwork documenting that the plants were produced under a farming or processing license. If caught with less than an ounce, violators would have to pay a $1,000 fine or serve up to a year in jail. This makes the penalty the same for offenders prosecuted for a misdemeanor marijuana charge.
The bill passed the House Agriculture Committee with a voice vote. House Bill 847, the measure in question, will then be voted on in the full House and then move onto the state Senate.
This measure is meant to put power back in the hands of police who have been at odds to be able to prosecute low-level marijuana offenses because of the difficulty of differentiating hemp from marijuana.
Critics worry that this move essentially criminalizes a legal substance. Police will be able to seize the product from citizens just as they could marijuana. They argue that if the police wanted to persecute marijuana possession, then the way to go about it would be to invest in the facilities to be able to accurately test for marijuana.
This is not a topic with an easy answer, as the only test that can positively tell the difference between the different types of cannabis requires extensive lab work. Policemen in the field and even trained drug dogs have no way of telling the two apart. Like many states, Georgia is looking to find a balance between allowing citizens access to a newly legal product while maintaining laws that prohibit possession of an illegal one.