In the wake of the legalization of hemp in Ohio, the state is experiencing difficulties prosecuting criminal cases involving cannabis. This problem stems from the state’s lack of mean to differentiate between the legalized hemp and marijuana, which is still illegal.
The signing of the Senate Bill 57 by Governor Mike DeWine on July 30 legalized licensed cultivation and sale of hemp in the state. With the federal 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is cannabis with THC levels below 0.3% and legalizes its cultivation and sale. The law requires the Ohio government to put into function a regulated and licensed hemp industry in Ohio within six months after its signing on July 30.
A 10TV report states that Ohio’s crime labs can only ascertain the presence but not the concentration levels of THC in cannabis. According to 10TV, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is already developing the criteria for determining THC levels- a process which may take several months. Before then, the BCI recommends that the courts don’t arraign suspects on cannabis-related crimes.
This recommendation implies the decriminalization of cannabis in the state. According to a Cleveland.com report, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost stated that his office would ensure that by the end of the year, the state would have endowed the BCI with three testing machines. Until authorities get these machines, the AG has allocated funds for them to carry out testing in private labs.
Other states have encountered a similar problem. Texas, for example, had to drop hundreds of cannabis-related cases until completion of testing. In Nebraska, prosecutors facing the challenge of ascertaining THC levels decided to drop charges against four football players from the University of Nebraska.
The senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project Chris Lindsey told the Cannabis Business Time that these problems would dwindle with time. Since states are used to zero tolerance to cannabis, determining the exact THC concentration levels will require the establishment of new systems.
This month, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein explained the dropping misdemeanor charges saying that the authorities had no way of determining THC levels. While speaking to 10TV, Klein decried the obstacle presented by the law, which prevents them from prosecuting cannabis-related cases.
Racheal Gillette, chair of Greenspoon Marder’s Cannabis Law Practice supported the suspension of the cases until when these states can accurately determine the THC levels of the cannabis in question. She explains that there is bound to arise disagreements when it came to justifying cannabis as hemp or marijuana, and for the sake of justice, it was best to suspend all cannabis-related charges. Gillette added that the issue could present another argument in justification of ending the prohibition of cannabis. She argued that this situation pokes the federal government concerning full federal legalization.