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Friday, April 05, 2019

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, APRIL 5, 2019

LEGISLATURE ENDS ON A "HIGH"
Maybe it's a sign of the times, but it seemed that an inordinate amount of time was spent on Sine Die day discussing medical marijuana, TCH, cannabis oil, hemp and how the products will be grown and sold.

HEMP FARMING
House Bill 213, also known as the "Georgia Hemp Farming Act", creates a set of guidelines for the growing, processing, transporting, testing, and destruction of hemp crops in Georgia. Hemp, a non-psychoactive form of cannabis, was legalized in the United States in December 2018 by a federal farm bill. Hemp was previously legal in the United States as long as it was purchased from foreign sources.

The Georgia Hemp Farming Act will require producers to hold a hemp grower license or hemp processor permit in order to be able to cultivate, handle, or process hemp. The licenses will be issued for one calendar year at a fee of $50.00 per acre, up to $5,000. Hemp farmers are required to give the Department of Agriculture the exact location of their fields and greenhouses. The department will be allowed to randomly test the hemp at the fields and greenhouses owned by licensees, and will be permitted to destroy hemp which contains a delta-9-THC concentration of .330% or more.

This bill will allow Georgia's farmers to join the competitive hemp industry and gain the revenue from this newly legalized product.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA
A 2015 bill created the Low THC Oil Patient Registry in Georgia, but provided no means for those patients to access Low THC Oil. "Georgia's Hope Act", House Bill 324, allows for the legitimate use of medical cannabis for health care, and creates a means for the production, growing, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil in Georgia.

HB 324 creates a means for patients on the Low THC Oil Patient Registry to obtain low THC oil in Georgia. Pharmacies will provide the retail outlets for the registry card holders to purchase the oil. It provides regulations on the production of marijuana used to create low THC oil, and requires growers and processors to obtain a license.

This bill creates the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, which will oversee the manufacturing of low THC oil in Georgia. The commission will oversee the quality control, security, and oversight of all low THC oil production in the state.

There will be two Class I production licenses issued costing a $25,000 application fee and $100,000 for the license if awarded. There will be two Class II production licenses awarded costing $5,000 application fee and $50,000 for the license if awarded.

It is unlawful to ingest the low THC oil by way of any electronic cigarette or device which will produce vapor in a solution or other form.

HB 324 requires a 20% set aside of expenditures of businesses purchasing under this act.

FINAL PASSAGE
HB 365: Lowers the Title Ad Valorem Tax on vehicles to 6.6% from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2023. Clarifies that TAVT would not be imposed on the transfer of a title between legal entities that are owned by the same person. Eliminates the sales and use tax on rideshare, taxi and limo services and imposes a 50 cents per "for hire ground transportation" and 25 cents per "for-hire shared ride" excise tax.
HB 445: Creates a new definition for "dynamic dune field" and specifies where construction may be permitted on one. Creates exemptions for minor construction projects, subject to approval by the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources.

PUBLIC SAFETY
HB 282: Increases the length of time required by law enforcement to maintain physical evidence related to a sexual assault case to 30 years from the date of the arrest of the perpetrator, or 50 years if no arrests are made.
HB 454: Establishes safety rules for electric assisted bicycles. A study committee will look at two wheel electric scooters.
HB 470: Requires DNA samples to be taken from individuals currently incarcerated or on probation for a felony charge. Requires the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to purge the DNA samples of individuals who had their felony charges dismissed or upon acquittal.

LAWYER LEGISLATORS
HB 502: Updates the Georgia Code regarding continuance requests. Allows for members of the Georgia General Assembly, legislative staff, Legislative council and other state agencies who wish to file for a continuance of stay when they are the lead council or part of the lead council in a pending civil or criminal proceeding. The continuance of stay would only be applicable seven days prior to session, including special sessions, convening, length of any session, three weeks following Sine Die during scheduled meetings including national conferences, board meetings and caucus, committee and study committee meetings. In criminal cases outside the blocked out period, legislators can apply but victim has right to object.

JUDICIAL
HB 239: Adds provisions for Georgia's state-wide business court including the location of the court, the appointment of the judge, the court's jurisdiction and the compensation of the judge. Will require both parties to agree to have the case heard in business court.
HB 543: Allows courts to classify an individual as an "equitable caregiver", which would include individuals who have "fully and completely undertaken a permanent, unequivocal, committed responsible parental role in a child's life."

HUMAN SERVICES
HB 85: Provides a sales and use tax exemption for nonprofit organ donation centers. Provides a sales and use tax exemption on the membership and initiation fees incurred by joining a shooting of physical fitness club.

LOOKING AHEAD
Over the next few weeks, we'll be looking at legislation that passed in different areas and including budgetary changes that were also made in the FY 2020 General budget. We will look at Mental Health, children's issues, issues affecting the elderly, Economic Development, Agriculture, Transportation, Education, Healthcare and others.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx. Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. The FY 2019 budget (HB 30) may be found at http://www.house.ga.gov/budget/Documents/2019_FiscalYear/AFY_2019_Bill_As_Passed.pdf. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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