Court allows some CBD sales in Catoosa County, Georgia after store owner sues sheriff’s office

Some products containing extracts of cannabidiol, a chemical found in hemp, can be resold in stores in Catoosa County, according to a court ruling issued Tuesday afternoon.

The case began when Joe King, owner of a store that sold CBD derivatives, sued the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office after the sheriff demanded that all stores in the county stop selling most CBD products .

Sheriff Gary Sisk said people were being negatively affected by the products and many hemp derivatives were illegal. King argued that CBD derivatives are beneficial to his clients and are not specifically banned.

Because of the ruling, as of Tuesday afternoon, CBD products were back on the shelves at the Shoppe, the store King owns in Fort Oglethorpe. In a phone interview, King said his is one of 10 stores in the Fort Oglethorpe area that sell CBD products, with many more in Ringgold and throughout the county.

In the ruling, Catoosa County Superior Court Judge Brian House said it is clear there is a difference in interpretation regarding the legality of hemp derivatives under Georgia law. The issue is best decided by Georgia lawmakers, House said, but his court would accept the request if one of the parties in the case asked for the ruling to be heard by a higher court.

(READ MORE: Fort Oglethorpe CBD Store Owner Sues Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office For Right To Sell Products)

Stores in every other northwest Georgia county besides Catoosa sell CBD derivatives without legal challenge, King said, adding that they are bought to help with pain, insomnia and anxiety , although he does not claim to be a doctor or pharmacist.

“Unfortunately, if we want change, we’re going to have to be ourselves,” King said. “If he (Sisk) keeps fighting, we’ll keep fighting. We know our product helps.”

CBD gummies are still banned, House ruled. King said he needs to talk to the community of people who support his legal challenge before he decides to ask the court to allow the sale of CBD gummies.

Hemp was legalized federally under the Farm Bill in 2018. Georgia legalized hemp and its derivatives in 2019.

A legal limit of 0.3% for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, was set for delta-9, a derivative of CBD, but King argues that delta-8 and other pain-fighting derivatives have no THC threshold limits because the thresholds are not specifically mentioned in the law.

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / The Shoppe, pictured Aug. 1, 2022, sued Catoosa County after being forced to pull delta-8 products from shelves.

(READ MORE: CBD retail sector takes off with at least 30 stores in Chattanooga area)

Hemp is the same plant as cannabis, but with much less THC, which is the chemical that gets people high.

“The court finds that Georgia lawmakers would have explicitly limited certain hemp products (along with) delta-8 if they wanted it to be illegal, which they did not,” House said in its decision.

The ruling does not address the issue of the packaging and marketing of CBD products, House said, and law enforcement officers are “not prohibited” from enforcing those laws.

In February, Sisk sent letters to King and other CBD retailers, warning them they could be prosecuted for selling illegal products. In that letter, he said some CBD products sold in the county had illegally high levels of THC and labels that misrepresented the effect or THC levels of their products.

Sisk was interviewed about the ruling Tuesday night on a local cable access channel called UCTV in north Georgia.

There are several other court cases pending regarding CBD, Sisk said, and he believes state and federal authorities need to be on the same page legally.

“It’s very complicated,” Sisk said.

(READ MORE: Elisha Millan Has A Whole Lot Of Intricacies In Hemp Trading)

Despite the ruling, Sisk said stores are still liable for the products sold, because he said some CBD product labels illegally misrepresented the product’s effect, citing a separate Georgia law that requires truth in the labeling

“We just told the stores that they are responsible for what they sell,” Sisk said.

Sisk said he would like to see the General Assembly revise the hemp-derived laws. Some CBD derivatives have been synthesized to have high levels of THC and are allowed to be sold legally in what he called a “loophole” in the law. Sisk said he would like to see the law clarified by making the 0.3% THC standard “broadcast” for all CBD derivatives, not just delta-9.

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.

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