A drug possession conviction can significantly change a person’s life. Punishments vary, depending on the exact drug in question and the amount, but those convicted may face jail time or a fine. Many people assume that marijuana possession is not a serious crime, but dependent on the circumstances, the punishment can still be significant. One city here in Georgia recently decided to change its policy around marijuana possession due the legalization of hemp, and it could change how criminal defense is handled in that area.

Athens-Clarke County police recently reported a policy change regarding how officers will handle possession of marijuana arrests. From here on out, officers will not arrest a person or issue him or her with a summons for marijuana possession. Because hemp is so similar to marijuana, it would presumably be difficult for officers in the field to distinguish it from marijuana. Now, officers will take the substance in question, file a police report and submit the substance to evidence.

Hemp has a much lower concentration of THC than marijuana, and the recently-passed Georgia Hemp Farming Act means that people can possess it legally. This leaves law enforcement with a dilemma, however, since even local and state crime labs cannot currently determine the level of THC in a substance, only its presence. This kind of testing won’t be used as part of prosecuting a marijuana case anymore.

Though this only affects one city in Georgia, it may soon become law in others. In the meantime, anyone charged with possession of marijuana will want to be sure that he or she explores all available options for criminal defense. An attorney may be the best option for someone in this situation and an accused person’s best chance at the most favorable outcome possible.