Georgia lawmakers have just moved forward with a bill that would effectively criminalize hemp for those without a license.

Under the new measure, possession of less than an ounce of hemp could carry a penalty of up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine for people not properly licensed. That’s the same penalty the state has for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Georgia’s House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee approved the bill last Tuesday. HB 847 will now go before the full House before it can move on to the State senate.

The bill flies in the face of both the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp at the federal level, and Georgia’s Hemp Farming Act, which made it legal to grow marijuana with less than 3% THC.

The real dumb part is that lawmakers don’t even seem to have a problem with hemp. Their deal is that local law enforcement doesn’t want to cough up the money to test leafy green substances to see if it’s illegal marijuana or legal hemp.

As reported by the Valdosta Daily Times, Georgia’s crime lab says the required machine costs $65,000 with THC tests running $80 a pop.

Easier just to make it all illegal, they seem to figure. Why not save money on cocaine tests and send mothers carrying baby powder to prison for a year?

The alternative, advocates of the bill argue, would be to give a pass for cannabis possession in the state.

“If you treat any leafy substance as hemp, you’re decriminalizing marijuana in this state,” said Pete Skandalakis, the executive director for the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia. “I don’t think that’s what the Legislature wants.”

So the dilemma seems to be: either decriminalize weed or criminalize hemp, with anything in between being too confusing and costly.

Mazie Lynn Causey, a lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, argues that the bill is “seeking to criminalize a legal substance of hemp as if it was marijuana.”

Photo via Flickr/Eljay