Todd Hayes

Todd Hayes

Cherokee County won’t end prosecution of misdemeanor marijuana cases because of a state law legalizing hemp, the drug’s benign cousin, Solicitor General Todd Hayes said.

“We will be reviewing cases since May 10 on a case-by-case basis,” Hayes said. That is the date Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law legalizing hemp in Georgia.

The General Assembly legalized the growing of hemp, which is used in textiles and manufacturing of ropes. But, unlike marijuana it has very low levels of THC, the chemical that makes users high.

“I don’t think we’re going to see people smoking hemp to get high,” Hayes said. “That would like smoking wicker.”

However, some other counties (Gwinnett, Dekalb and Cobb) have recently changed their policies to stop prosecuting cases involving less than an ounce of marijuana. The reason cited is that current testing methods cannot distinguish between marijuana and now-legal hemp.

Hayes said last week that the testing issue presents an obstacle, but that his office’s duty to uphold the law remains.

In addition to physical evidence, circumstantial evidence often bolsters the marijuana case, such as discovery of the suspected drug with a pipe or cigarette rolling papers.

“Where we believe we can prove that a substance is marijuana based on scientific identification and circumstantial evidence, we will,” Hayes said. “Without question, such cases will be much harder to prove.”

Hayes said his office will soon be working with local law enforcement agencies to provide additional training on how to spot and document circumstantial evidence in suspected marijuana cases.

Under the new circumstances created by the law, those facing marijuana charges may be offered pretrial diversion or other alternative resolutions more often, Hayes said.

“There will be cases in which an outright dismissal is the only appropriate option under the law,” he said.

Marijuana charges are also often just one of several defendants face, Hayes said. “Where other substantial charges are brought by law enforcement in addition to a marijuana possession charge, we will focus on those charges first,” he said, listing driving under the influence and serious traffic offenses as examples.

Under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $1,000. Possessing more than an ounce of the illicit drug is a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Hayes said he understands the different decision made in Gwinnett, Dekalb and Cobb counties, more populous counties where the number of cases is much greater. In Cherokee County, Hayes estimated his office would handle not much more than 200 cases involving marijuana possession in a year.

Marietta Daily Journal reporter Rosie Manins contributed to this report.

Managing Editor

Gary Tanner is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune, Cherokee Ledger-News and Cherokee Life magazine. He has been working as a journalist since 1985.

Recommended for you

(4) comments

LimitlessWisdom

What? 😂 Because Cherokee County only prosecutes about 200 cases per year, you’re going to put people through the ringer over a plant called cannabis that actually benefits people. What is this guy talking about?! That is very invalid. Cherokee County prosecutes more than 200 cases per year. There’s at least 30-50 people in court every week for cannabis cases. Someone needs to examine the books. 😂 . Cherokee County just isn't done making money off of its residents. I definitely won’t be voting for this guy again and will advocate getting rid of this way of thinking. The World is changing and becoming more liberal everyday. Can you believe gay marriage was once illegal. Rights have to be fought for. We have the right and duty to abolish any government that does not secure our unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Alcohol kills more people every week in the United States. there has only been “1 recorded case” where a coroner stated a lady died of a THC overdose. Which is debatable considering the source. Once people of Cherokee County understand that these laws must be changed, then and only then can we get solicitors like this out of office. So they will be held accountable for their statements and ridiculous laws imposed on its citizens. Cherokee will change and Georgia will become a more free and liberal state. Change is inevitable and we the people must fight for that change. So please, especially if you’re young, vote these people out and come together to protest these shenanigans. And stop for Jesus sake, calling cannabis marijuana. Cannabis is a genus of flowering “plants” in the family Cannabaceae. Prior to 1910, so called marijuana didn’t exist as a word in American culture. Rather cannabis was used, most often in reference to medicines and remedies for common household ailments. It migrated from Mexico between 1910 and 1920 from immigrants. Harry Anslinger who wasn’t really educated in common sense testified before Congress, “Marijuana is the most violent-causing drug in the history of mankind... Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.” Does that sound like educated facts or pure ignorant hatred.? You be the judge. And your answer to those questions say a lot about who you are. Alongside Richard Nixon who attacked blacks and the so called hippies. Nowadays with social media, we’ll be able to weed those politicians out of Cherokee County. Peace and Love

LimitlessWisdom

What? 😂 Because Cherokee County only prosecutes about 200 cases per year, you’re going to put people through the ringer over a plant called cannabis that actually benefits people. What is this guy talking about?! That is very invalid. Cherokee County prosecutes more than 200 cases per year. There’s at least 30-50 people in court every week for cannabis cases. Someone needs to examine the books. 😂 . Cherokee County just isn't done making money off of its residents. I definitely won’t be voting for this guy again and will advocate getting rid of this way of thinking. The World is changing and becoming more liberal everyday. Can you believe gay marriage was once illegal. Rights have to be fought for. We have the right and duty to abolish any government that does not secure our unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Alcohol kills more people every week in the United States. there has only been “1 recorded case” where a coroner stated a lady died of a THC overdose. Which is debatable considering the source. Once people of Cherokee County understand that these laws must be changed, then and only then can we get solicitors like this out of office. So they will be held accountable for their statements and ridiculous laws imposed on its citizens. Cherokee will change and Georgia will become a more free and liberal state. Change is inevitable and we the people must fight for that change. So please, especially if you’re young, vote these people out and come together to protest these shenanigans. And stop for Jesus sake, calling cannabis marijuana. Cannabis is a genus of flowering “plants” in the family Cannabaceae. Prior to 1910, so called marijuana didn’t exist as a word in American culture. Rather cannabis was used, most often in reference to medicines and remedies for common household ailments. It migrated from Mexico between 1910 and 1920 from immigrants. Harry Anslinger who wasn’t really educated in common sense testified before Congress, “Marijuana is the most violent-causing drug in the history of mankind... Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.” Does that sound like educated facts or pure ignorant hatred.? You be the judge. And your answer to those questions say a lot about who you are. Alongside Richard Nixon who attacked blacks and the so called hippies. Nowadays with social media, we’ll be able to weed those politicians out of Cherokee County. Peace and Love

Cheroko21

Eleven states and DC have legalized pot. In some states you may even grow your own pot. Canada has legalized pot. In Atlanta, Clarkston, Forest Park, Unincorporated Fulton Co., Kingsland, Macon-Bibb County you may pay a fine from $75 to $300 for possession of an ounce or less. A majority of adults have tried pot at one time or another, and found it to be safer than all the pot substitutes that are being legally sold now.

Cheroko21

& Savannah, S. Fulton, ...

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.