Georgia Hemp Farming Act and Marijuana Identification

HB 213, titled the Georgia Hemp Farming Act, went into effect July 1, 2019. That act, with the purpose to legalize hemp, defines and distinguishes hemp from marijuana. Section 2-23-3.(3) states:

“[f]ederally defined THC level for hemp means a delta-9-THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry-weight basis, or the THC concentration for hemp defined in 7 U.S.C Section 5940, whichever is greater.”

Georgia, now in line with the Feds, defines marijuana to be a substance with a THC
concentration of 0.3 percent or more. The definition does not include sight, smell, or feel
determinations.

Most often, prosecutors rely upon a law enforcement officer’s training and experience to
establish that officer as an expert witness in identifying suspected marijuana. Once an expert witness, the officer can give an ‘expert’ opinion as to the identity of the suspect marijuana. Basically, the officer says, “the substance smells, feels, and looks like marijuana, so in my expert opinion, it is marijuana.” This has long been the prosecutorial norm in identifying a suspect drug at trial. It is less costly on the State to elevate an officer to expert status rather than calling a chemist to the stand to verify the results of a lab test.

Before the July 1, 2019 HB 213 effective date, a law enforcement officer’s smell, sight, and feel testimony could be enough, as a matter of law, to define marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt. Thanks to HB 213, an officer’s go-to training and experience testimony should now be irrelevant thus ineffective in elevating an officer to expert status. Again, now, marijuana is chemically defined and smell, sight, and feel SHOULD NOT be outcome determinative in identifying THC concentration levels in cannabis. Further, there is no THC concentration level field test. A good defense attorney should make the necessary objections to prevent the introduction of expert testimony from untrained cops.

If you are facing marijuana charges or were arrested because an officer thought he smelled
marijuana, contact PC LAW GROUP. We sniff out the law for Every Client. Every Time.

Christopher D. Childress, Esq.
Managing Partner, PC LAW GROUP