Cobb School District Police will follow the lead of Cobb County Police and halt arrests of students carrying misdemeanor amounts of marijuana, Chief Ron Storey told the MDJ.
“We met with the solicitor general, Barry Morgan, and the DA’s office, and we’re not going to be charging for small amounts of marijuana, less than an ounce, just like Cobb County Police are doing, until a solution is found,” Storey said.
“It’s still going to be dealt with, the only difference is they won’t be criminally charged,” he added.
Cobb schools represent the latest in a string of departments, including Cobb County Police, to suspend such arrests following Georgia’s new hemp law, which was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on May 10.
The law allows the legal possession of industrial hemp. Hemp comes from the same family as marijuana but contains very low levels of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets users high. It has a variety of uses, ranging from textiles to animal feed to biofuel.
But the problem, police say, is that departments lack the equipment to distinguish between legal hemp and illegal marijuana.
Storey said students shouldn’t view this as a free pass to bring pot to school, however, and kids caught with pot on campus will still face consequences. Officers can still confiscate suspected marijuana, and school administrators can still dispense punishments such as suspensions.
“It doesn’t change the school policy at all because we’re talking about administrative stuff, which is still going to be handled the same as it has been,” he said. “In the meantime, if they’re found in possession of it, it’s still illegal to possess. If our officers come about it, they will take the marijuana. They’ll seize it. We just won’t be charging them criminally until we get the test done, then we’ll go back to charging again.”
Storey said the department is still discussing the possibility of keeping suspected marijuana in evidence to test and potentially prosecute once that’s possible.
“We haven’t necessarily decided,” he said. “We probably will keep it in evidence, most likely. You can always go back and test once the change is done, but we have not made that decision yet.
Unlike Cobb County Schools, which has its own police department, school resource officers in Marietta City Schools are employed by the Marietta Police Department.
MPD spokesman Officer Chuck McPhilamy said the department has not made any changes to its policy on misdemeanor marijuana arrests. In other words, anyone caught by Marietta officers carrying marijuana, whether in a school or not, could still face charges.
“As far as the city of Marietta is concerned, both for the city and the city school system, we are still evaluating the evidence regarding this whole discussion,” he said. “But for now, it is business as usual. We have not made any of the changes that the other locations have made.”