De facto legalization of marijuana sweeping across metro Atlanta

Folks, it’s time to face the facts:  Federal marijuana legalization is coming, and it’s coming quickly.

This isn’t some statement designed to frighten us, however.  It is quite the opposite. In states and locales where the plant has been decriminalized or legalized outright, fantastic and prosperous things are happening.  Opioid overdoses are down, profits are up, and teens are using less of the drug, possibly due to the inherent uncool nature of doing something that’s now legal.

You don’t have to use marijuana to be a fan of legal weed.  This isn’t the 60’s anymore.

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Now, a recent change to hemp laws is spurning a backdoor legalization of the drug in the Bible Belt, as metro Atlanta police departments are increasingly refusing to take legal action against users of the drug.

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First, it was Gwinnett County.

The Gwinnett County Police Department announced Monday it will no longer write tickets or arrest anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana.

The department publicized the change Monday, days after Gwinnett County Solicitor General Brian Whiteside announced his office would no longer prosecute marijuana cases. Both offices made the change because a new statewide law means a new drug identification test is necessary before marijuana cases can go to court.

Then came the shocker as Cobb County announced similar measures.

Cobb County police and court staff are suspending their prosecution of people for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, until a way around a new state law can be found.

The change was confirmed by Cobb County Police Chief Tim Cox in a letter to the men and women of his department Monday.

Cobb County had been given the dubious colloquial acrostic “Count On Being Busted” after police officers were repeatedly reported to have arrested non-marijuana users for driving “while high”.

Both Cobb and Gwinnett County have cited Georgia’s recent legalization of hemp farming as the reason for the change.

Hemp, while not psychoactive, does contain trace amounts of THC – the active intoxicant in marijuana.  Current technology does not allow for the cost-effective testing of THC potency, with police only able to determine whether THC is present at all.  That means that perfectly legal hemp products will test positive under the current system, the same as THC-rich strains of marijuana.

The move comes months after the City of Atlanta decriminalized marijuana possession of under one ounce.



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