YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Last year, federal legislation in Ohio removed hemp from the list of federally controlled substances. This low THC version of the cannabis plant is now being treated like other agricultural crops, but now there are questions over how this all will be enforced.
On Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced a major marijuana trafficking grant program to assist law enforcement in differentiating between hemp and marijuana.
“Marijuana traffickers are not welcome in Ohio,” he said.
Senate Bill 57 changed the Ohio Revised Code’s definition of marijuana to exclude hemp. It will now be defined as cannabis containing no more than 0.3% THC.
With this change, marijuana cannot be identified solely by older ways of testing, like microscopic examination or chemical color testing.
“A prosecutor not only has to prove that the contraband has THC in it but has to show the amount because if it’s more than three one-hundredths of one percent, then it’s marijuana, which is illegal. If it’s less than three-hundredths of one percent it is hemp, which is perfectly legal,” Yost said.
This program will provide $50,000 in funding for law enforcement agencies to have large quantities of marijuana tested in labs that will be able to test specifically for THC.
“The real issue is not the guy that’s got a little baggie in the dashboard of his car or stash box at home, the real problem is the traffickers,” Yost said.
Locally, authorities are working with the state to better understand the new laws.
“At this point, we are coordinating some training for our deputy sheriffs that are on patrol so that when they run into hemp, compared to marijuana, that we are positive on how to push it through the courts,” said Maj. Bill Cappabianca, Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.
But, Youngstown City Law Director Jeff Limbian says this won’t change how they prosecute drug charges.
“If you have legal marijuana products, you’re going to be fine. If you have illegal marijuana products and you think that you’re going to circumvent the law because of the confusion between hemp and marijuana and what has THC and what doesn’t, you’re still going to have a problem,” Limbian said.
Yost says the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is currently validating instruments, developing methods and creating procedures for THC testing. They say they should be ready to receive evidence by early next year.