The Georgia General Assembly has passed a bill that further regulates the hemp industry in the state. According to some legislators, the new regulations represent the state’s willingness and efforts to advance the hemp industry there. However, at least one provision contained within House Bill 847 is seen by some as being a negative for the players in Georgia’s hemp market, who will begin cultivating the crop legally for the first time this summer.
The new regulations allow Georgia businesses to sell their hemp products to out-of-state buyers. Once the governor signs the new bill into law, the proverbial flood gates will be open, and the Georgia hemp market will increase exponentially.
Also contained within the bill are regulations dealing with the police and the possession of hemp. As stipulated in the new bill, buyers and sellers in possession of hemp must have the proper paperwork on them at all times. Failure to do so can result in a misdemeanor charge. Additionally, without proper documentation, the new regulations allow for the police to field test cannabis plant material in order to determine its cannabinoid content. If the material has more than .3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), then the police can seize it and arrest the offender, which may lead to felony charges.
The provision in the bill that is perhaps the most disagreeable to many is the addition of an initial $25,000 fee followed by an annual $50,000 fee for processors in the industry. State Senator Tyler Harper defended the fees as necessary to help pay for the administration of the hemp program. However, Senator Freddie Powell Sims believes the fees will be too much of a burden on a large number of farmers and will result in an industry with only a handful of players.
The bill, which passed by a vote of 34-13 on Monday the 22nd, 2020, is headed to the governor’s desk and is expected to pass.