Georgia Appeals Court Rules Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids Are Not Controlled Substances

Georgia Appeals Court Rules Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids Are Not Controlled Substances

The ruling could pave the way for retailers to begin selling items containing the controversial hemp byproducts.

Hemp's unofficial and very much unwanted legal tour of America rolled into Georgia last week as the state's Court of Appeals handed down its ruling concerning the legal status of products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids.


According to multiple local and national media outlets, last Thursday, the Appeals Court ruled that products with delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, and other hemp-based cannabinoids are not controlled substances and are thus legal to sell in the state. The decision is a crucial victory for the hemp industry in Georgia and its many advocates and invested stakeholders.


The case was brought before the court by the Elements Distribution Company (EDC), which was raided in February 2022 by Gwinnett County officials for selling hemp-derived THC items. EDC supplies vape stores with hemp products, including Delta 8 and 10 THC products typically sold as gummies. It, along with several other businesses, was targeted by the Gwinnett district attorney and local law enforcement as part of a concerted strategy to crack down on hemp-based companies.


The DA's office still has the choice to appeal the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court. However, there is no indication that an appeal is forthcoming.


"I think this is a powerful message for folks around Georgia that these are legal products. The Legislature specifically legalized them in 2019, and that law enforcement has no authority to go after businesses that are legally selling these products," EDC's attorney Tom Church told WXIA in reaction to the Court of Appeals decision.


"I think this is a powerful message for folks around Georgia that these are legal products. The Legislature specifically legalized them in 2019, and that law enforcement has no authority to go after businesses that are legally selling these products."

- Tom Church, attorney representing Elements Distribution Company


The law Church is referencing is the state’s Hemp Farming Act passed in 2019. The statute set up licenses for farming and processing hemp and allows "all products with the federally defined THC level for hemp."


"For the first time in Georgia history, cannabis became explicitly legal as long as it didn't have too much of Delta THC, which is the type of THC that makes users high," Church said.

He also stated that he hopes this ruling sets a precedent for similar cases throughout the state.


"For the first time in Georgia history, cannabis became explicitly legal as long as it didn't have too much of Delta THC, which is the type of THC that makes users high."

- Tom Church, attorney representing Elements Distribution Company


The Georgia Appeals Court ruling is just the latest in a series of legal battles over hemp and its cannabinoid derivatives. Since the beginning of September, judges in Maryland, Arkansas, and Texas temporarily lifted bans on products containing hemp-derived delta-8 THC. Meanwhile, last week a judge in Virginia rejected a request to grant an injunction on a recently enacted state law that imposes severe restrictions on hemp items containing intoxicating levels of THC.


After the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp, states have taken different approaches to regulating hemp-derived cannabinoids. Many industry activists were hoping that the 2023 iteration of the Farm Bill might finally close all the legal loopholes and vagaries caused by the 2018 version and firmly settle the question of hemp-derived cannabinoids and their legality.


However, due to the House Speaker drama over the past several weeks and an impending government shutdown, several key lawmakers do not believe the Farm Bill will be renewed before the end of the year. Until it is, farmers, manufacturers, and retailers are stuck in a legal and economic limbo.


The recent legal victories in states like Georgia, Texas, Maryland, and Arkansas are encouraging signs for an industry battered and beleaguered on all fronts. But until Congress and regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration take the issue by the horns and address it finally and effectively, businesses like EDC will be trapped between a legal rock and a financial hard place, a genuinely unfun spot to occupy.