Top officials in Ohio are perplexed after Senate Bill 57 was signed into law on July 30th by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. The bill signed by Governor DeWine created a program for farmers to receive a license for hemp cultivation and decriminalized hemp for the state of Ohio. But, there’s a catch that legalized cannabis along with hemp – Police officers can’t officially distinguish between cannabis and hemp in the field.
Official procedure in the state of Ohio requires that labs like the Columbus police lab and the BCI state crime lab perform tests to confirm the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, there’s another catch with the test’s process that both crime labs share, both labs can only detect the presence of THC and not the amount of THC present. This final catch is what effectively legalized both cannabis and hemp within Ohio because hemp is legal as long as the level of THC present is .3% or less. Since both the police and state labs do not have a test for the amount of THC and can only confirm or deny its presence, there is no way to determine or distinguish between confiscated hemp or confiscated cannabis.
Jason Pappas, Vice President of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, stated: "Now we have to be able to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana. That is not possible for a human being to do, that has to be done through crime analysis."
It was said in a statement by the BCI state crime lab that the new standard test method “may take several months” before it is implemented as a standard operating procedure. The lab is only in the early stage of validation to ensure that the method meets the requirement as defined by the new law. BCI has officially recommended that Ohio prosecutors “suspend identification of marijuana testing” and that the state should “not indict any cannabis-related items.”
Louis Tobin, Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, stated: “This bill de facto legalizes marijuana in Ohio…at least for a time. We raised this concern with legislators during the debate of this bill. It’s disappointing those concerns were rejected.”
The Columbus City Attorney has decided to drop all active misdemeanor cannabis cases and will not prosecute any additional misdemeanor cannabis cases.
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