GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Gwinnett County authorities say they'll likely resume arresting people with small amounts of marijuana in two to three months.
Gwinnett's solicitor sent a letter to judges this week saying he won’t prosecute marijuana cases until police are able to tell the difference between legal hemp and illegal marijuana.
Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas broke the news Thursday. Since then, authorities told him they believe this is temporary crisis.
“There is a potential fix out there,” Gwinnett County Police Chief Butch Ayers said.
Police chiefs from across Gwinnett County met behind closed doors with prosecutors Friday, trying to figure out how they might handle minor marijuana possession arrests going forward.
“Currently, we have dismissed 100 cases,” Gwinnett County Solicitor Brian Whiteside said.
Whiteside announced this week that he was tossing misdemeanor possession cases made since May 10.
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That's when hemp was legalized in Georgia. It created unintended consequences for the police.
“This is a learning process,” Ayers said.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said his investigators have found field tests that police can use, but he said it will take at least 60-90 days for state approval and for departments to buy the tests.
“We talked to them about putting up guidelines so people of Gwinnett County wouldn't be treated differently in one city to the next to the county,” Porter told Thomas.
Also in question is how much police can rely on smelling or seeing marijuana in a car as probable cause to search the vehicle.
Police said that, many times, when they pull someone over, they find evidence of other crimes. For now, Thomas was told to expect fewer arrests for minor pot possession, but larger-scale investigations are still a full go.
“We are still looking at the grow houses. We are still going to work our drug task force and we will continue to move forward with them,” said Lawrenceville Police Chief Tim Wallis.
The issue with the new law is expected to have statewide implications.
Thomas checked with several of the metro counties Friday. Some counties won't say how they are handling the issue.
Others seem to be taking it on a case-by-case basis, waiting for technology to catch up.
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