The legalization of cannabis continues to cause chronic concern in Georgia. Recently, the State of Georgia and Patsy Austin-Gatson, Gwinnett County District Attorney, were named as defendants in a suit challenging the legality of commercial products containing cannabinoids derived from hemp. These hemp-derived products are not the lab-created, synthetic cannabinoids. Instead, the products at issue contain naturally occurring cannabinoids found in hemp. Currently, Georgia's Hemp Farming Bill explicitly legalized "delta-9-THC," but not "delta-8-THC" or "delta-10-THC," which are the products at issue in the suit.
In January 2022, DA Austin-Gatson announced she would be cracking down on these unnamed hemp-derived commercial products. Since the District Attorney's press release, various Gwinnett County businesses have been raided by law enforcement for the sale of these seemingly illegal products. Four days after filing suit, local vape stores were granted a temporary injunction directing DA Austin-Gatson's office to cease its criminal enforcement against delta-8-THC and delta-10-THC.
Most recently, the court ruled that the temporary injunction will remain in effect while the case remained pending. In rejecting the State and DA's arguments, the court concluded that plaintiffs met their burden showing "there is a substantial threat that they will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted; the threatened injury to the Plaintiffs outweighs the threatened harm that the injunction may do the defendant; there is a substantial likelihood that the Plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of the claims at trial; and granting interlocutory injunction will disserve the public interest."
This suit highlights the factors considered in an interlocutory injunction against a governmental entity, which may establish the groundwork for a subsequent civil suit. We will continue to monitor developments and rulings related to the cannabis industry in Georgia. If you would like a copy of any of the Court's Orders or parties' motions, please contact Wayne S. Melnick or Carlos A. Fernández.
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