Ohio Secures Equipment Needed to Differentiate Hemp From Marijuana
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Ohio Secures Equipment Needed to Differentiate Hemp From Marijuana

Up until recently, Ohio state prosecutors were not pursuing low-level marijuana charges because the state didn’t have the equipment to differentiate hemp from its illegal counterpart.

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May 5, 2020

Ohio has officially secured the testing equipment it needs to tell the difference between marijuana and hemp.

Up until recently, most of Ohio’s crime labs, if not all, could only detect the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but not the concentration. The concentration is key in determining whether the cannabis in question is hemp or marijuana, which would be anything containing more than 0.3% THC.

The lack of testing equipment exposed a major loophole in the state’s law enforcement capabilities. Since Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 57 in July of 2019, which decriminalized hemp and legalized licensed hemp cultivation in Ohio, prosecutors across the state were told to either delay low-level marijuana possession cases for months or not pursue them at all. 

Now, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation has the equipment it needs to carry out quantitative analysis on cannabis, according to News 5 Cleveland. Attorney General Dave Yost said that now that the equipment is ready, local departments can start sending samples to the lab.

The loophole resulted in hundreds of marijuana seizures across the state that were not pursued with citations or charges, News 5 reports, including when a police officer pulled over Browns Running Back Kareem Hunt and “suspected the NFL player had marijuana.” The officer didn’t file charges.

In the time that cannabis has been in a sort of purgatory in the state, some municipalities have changed local laws to remove marijuana charges for lower levels of possession. In January, the city of Cleveland removed all penalties for having less than 200 grams of marijuana. 

States across the country have been dealing with similar issues of outdated equipment and K-9s unequipped to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

Some states have devised solutions, including Virginia, where some police officers have been using field test kits that measure the ratio of THC versus cannabidiol (CBD). Those kits allow police officers to limit the amount of cannabis they need to send to labs for official testing.