One Man's Opinion: Separating Weed from Chaff

"I'm proud to have GAXtracts here in Oconee County, assisting our efforts to weed out the bad guys and seize illegal vaping products, which we can now prove are filled with illegal and high THC content." said Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.

During recent testimony before the Georgia General Assembly, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (G.B.I.) Director Vic Reynolds stated that the agency maintains a database of nearly 70,000 gang members across the state. Criminal gang activity has been on a steady rise in rural, suburban and urban communities alike for the past several years, making reducing gang activity a priority for the G.B.I. as well as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.

Illegal and illicit activities by gangs range from violent to drug crimes and are also part of the fast spread of illegal vaping products, often sold in otherwise apparently legal tobacco and head shops. The massive surge in E-cigarattes and vaping products have also created a spike in the manufacture and sale of black market THC-laced marijuana and other cannabis products, often unsafe and frequently containing toxic chemicals as well as known carcinogens.

GAXtracts, LLC, a Georgia-based agri-business and technology enterprise, is becoming a leading voice in the responsible, pure, proven and tested manufacture of CBD health supplements and products. The company is seeking to become Georgia's first state-licensed industrial hemp processor, and is in a research partnership now with the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Bio-Science to develop and distribute resilient hemp seeds and seedlings for planting and distribution to Georgia farmers later this spring. GAXtracts and UGA hope to later genetically engineer a hemp plant strain containing virtually no THC.

But in the meantime, illicit hemp flowers and marijuana buds, as well as impure vaping solutions are flooding the market and streets, as well as showing up on the shelves of some vaping and head shops, packaged and marketed as legal products. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have issued multiple health warnings against the use of flavored vaping products by adolescents and young adults. Bad health results from consuming these illegal products include serious hospitalizations, pre-cancerous tumors, cancerous growths and death.

During the 2019 session of the Georgia General Assembly, the legislature and Governor legalized the farming, production, processing and sale of industrial hemp products, containing the chemical compound, Cannabidiol (CBD) to be used for processing and manufacture into a variety of health supplement and cosmetic CBD products.

Previously, the G.B.I. Crime Labs across Georgia have not had sufficient capacity to process or test the THC concentration or levels in products seized during arrests by local law enforcement. However as pure, proven and tested CBD and low THC levels (below .03 percent) are standard for all GAXtracts processing, manufacturing and later any products for sale, the company also has the sophisticated lab equipment and trained technicians and researchers onsite at their labs in Watkinsville, Georgia, to monitor and test for THC concentration and levels as well as determine whether or not any plant or sample is 'hot,' with a THC content above the legal limit of .03 percent.

"Assisting and supporting Sheriff Berry and his team was a no-brainer. We look forward to working with other local and state police and sheriff offices to help serve and protect our communities. We hope to help pure, tested and proven industrial hemp products become as associated with Georgia as peaches, peanuts and poultry," said Don Barden, CEO and co-founder of GAXtracts.

Budget and staffing cuts have been proposed for the G.B.I. Crime Lab in the current budget cycle, though the Georgia House budget proposal for the remainder of the fiscal year restores several lab positions, Director Reynolds has indicated that a potential solution for handling increasing demand on Crime Lab testing facilities may be testing contracts with private vendors.

It may seem ironic to some, but it appears that the fast-growing and legal industrial hemp industry may become an ally in identifying and weeding out the sale of illegal and unsafe products, which potentially endanger the health of children and adults alike, wooed either by ending a bad smoking habit with vaping products, or seeking a path to a new and illicit high.

While some legislators are concerned about securing evidence and the chain of custody outside of the direct control of law enforcement agencies and personnel, rape kits have long been gathered and stored by non-profit and private sector health care providers, before being tested at the G.B.I. Crime Labs. As demand for vaping products is unlikely to abate anytime soon, it's good to know that the private sector is investing in technology to separate the weed from chaff.

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