Solicitor dismissing misdemeanor marijuana cases in Augusta

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT)-- Remember those marijuana misdemeanor changes we told you about yesterday? Well, today the Richmond County Solicitor is weighing in, calling the law flawed, so her office is not prosecuting any misdemeanor case right now dealing with marijuana.

The solicitor says this is bigger than a county ordinance issue. The ordinance will free up jail space and resources to prosecute more heinous crimes, but that may not even matter because state laws right now have her hands tied.

"The reality of the fact is that we are limited on resources just hands down, particularly limited in jail space," says Omeeka Loggins the solicitor general for Richmond County.

The proposal is if you're caught with an ounce or less of marijuana you won't be put in jail. Instead you'll be charged up to $150 for the first two offenses and then up to $300 for each offense after that.

"We spoke with magistrate court, the prosecutor and the judges and they were all on board," Loggins said.

But even if the city ordinance is passed, Richmond County Solicitor Omeeka Loggins says they face a road block. That road block is an oversight when the new Georgia Hemp Farming Bill was passed. There's a test that detects THC, but no test that measures the percentage.

"What it results in is that now as prosecutors we're like, wait a minute if we have no way of determining legal hemp from marijuana that's a big problem for us because we have the burden of proof," Loggins said.

Across the state prosecutors are handling this problem differently Some are holding onto cases until a test is created, but Loggins says she won't do that.

"I do not want to create more of an internal backlog by holding onto cases that I know I can't prosecute, don't know when I'll be able to prosecute them, and so I think that's not doing the community justice."

She says she's doing what she thinks is right until a test is created.

"I just made the hard call to just dismiss all open cases," Loggins said. "I'm not accepting any new cases I just think that's the most fair thing to do."

As far as a test goes the GBI is working on one, but it's not going to be rolled out until September. And even then, they're only going to be using that test on felony level cases, so that still leaves the misdemeanors untouchable until another test is created.