Gwinnett Citizen News

At its August 15, 2019, regular meeting, the Gwinnett County Board of Education approved a change to its student discipline code in an effort to clarify the district's policy regarding the possession and/or sale of cannabis in Gwinnett County public schools in light of the passage of the Georgia Hemp Farming Act, which was signed into law on May 10. The new changes specifically identify cannabis as a prohibited substance in Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS).

Previously, Rule 7 of the Gwinnett Student Conduct Behavior Code addressed "Marijuana." However, in light of the new state law which legalized the growing of cannabis, or hemp plants, school system leaders felt it prudent to update its rules to address "Cannabis." While cannabis/hemp plants are now legal in Georgia when produced by licensed growers and possessed by individuals, the possession or sale of cannabis remains a violation of GCPS school rules. This is similar to other substances or items that may be legal (cigarettes, other tobacco products, knives, etc.) but that students are not allowed to have or use on school grounds, at bus stops, on a school bus, and at school activities, functions, and events.

In bringing the policy change to the Board, Dr. Steve Flynt, associate superintendent for School Improvement and Operations, said, "This change is necessary in order for us to ensure our Student Code of Conduct is as clear as possible for students and parents."

Related to this policy change is a change in the procedure by Gwinnett County Public Schools' School Police. The testing methods currently used by local law enforcement and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab do not provide THC levels and therefore cannot differentiate between legal hemp and marijuana. Tests to distinguish between hemp and marijuana have been in development since the law was signed. Since field tests for officers are still unavailable and the solicitor's office is currently not prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana cases, Gwinnett's School Police and it's School Resource Officers will join other police agencies in temporarily halting the issuance of misdemeanor marijuana charges. Arrests and citations will resume when a court-accepted THC concentration test is available.

The bottom line is that while Gwinnett students may not face criminal charges for possession of cannabis, they will face disciplinary action if they have it on school grounds, at bus stops, on a school bus, or at school or district activities, functions, and events.