Hamilton County DA's office reviewing new TBI marijuana policy
A new policy on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's process of testing marijuana is raising legal concerns.
Investigators say they will no longer conduct THC tests for misdemeanor amounts of marijuana unless requested by the district attorney for trial.
The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office is reviewing how the TBI's new policy will impact future prosecutions, according to Communications Director Bruce Garner.
Criminal Defense Attorney Garth Best, a partner with Best Hayduk Brock, said they are waiting to hear how the district attorney will move forward in deciding which cases will be tested.
"It's going to be problematic if it's in the state's hands and their not automatically testing it because that's something they have to prove under the statute that it's a controlled substance which is the difference between marijuana and CBD," Best said.
Investigators at TBI will now conduct two tests to differentiate hemp from marijuana.
The second test determines the quantity of THC, this test will only be conducted for felony amounts of marijuana.
"It could last a while or the state could decide it's just not worth the time and money to prosecute it," Best said. "I think that was part of what TBI's issue was - that they had so many requests for testing this year just because CBD had become more normalized and decriminalized that they couldn't continue to everything that was being sent to them."
In a press release from TBI, they said they're expecting to receive more than 10,000 submissions.
"They definitely want to spend more time on the violent crimes and dedicate that instead of just having some of the cases that develop in backlog in the system so I think that would be smart policy to make a decision on what needs to be done with that," Best said.
This new policy is not decriminalization of marijuana, TBI clarified.
"It's still on the books as a statue that it's illegal to possess, people still get arrested for it, the product still gets taken as evidence," Best said.
WRCB reached out to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and the Chattanooga Police Department to see how this new policy would impact procedures.
Both departments reportedly don't have the ability to conduct these tests in house, therefore, they will continue to send misdemeanor submissions to TBI for testing that will likely never happen.