Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost removed a thorn in the side of state law enforcement agencies by announcing that the Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation now has the testing equipment needed to determine the difference between marijuana and hemp.
The announcement, delivered on April 30, 2020, is intended to clear up nearly a year’s worth of legal uncertainties harbored by law enforcement officers who were unable to perform a quantitative analysis of marijuana samples to ensure they were illegal marijuana and not hemp. Until recently, Ohio crime labs could only detect the presence of THC, but not its concentration.
Hemp, which was decriminalized and legalized for licensed cultivation in Ohio when Senate Bill 57 was signed into law in July 2019, is a variety of cannabis that contains 0.3% THC or less. Marijuana, on the other hand, has more of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, and thus produces the intoxicating high.
Because law enforcement lacked the ability to differentiate between marijuana and hemp, prosecutors statewide were advised not to pursue low-level possession cases, or to delay their cases.
Though some smaller cases were dismissed in the interim, others involving larger quantities were put on hold. Now that the BCI’s equipment is ready, local authorities can begin sending in samples for testing.
Marijuana Crimes in Ohio
Ohio’s ability to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana isn’t a particularly cutting-edge advancement, but it may play a role in some of the state’s larger cases, and keep costs lower for the state when bringing marijuana charges against defendants.
According to AG Yost, it’s still up to local jurisdictions if they want to send samples in for testing, and ultimately prosecute people for possession. In Columbus, City Attorney Zach Klein has stated that despite upgrades to the state’s crime labs, the City won’t pursue low-level marijuana cases.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a marijuana offense or drug crime in Ohio, defense attorneys at KBN are available to discuss your case during a free and confidential consultation. Contact us to speak with a lawyer.