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Federal Legalization Of Hemp Creates Confusion For State And Local Police

Published: March 31, 2019
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Source: kuow.org

BY GILLIAN FLACCUS / AP

But now, just a few months after Congress placed the marijuana look-alike squarely in safe legal territory, the hemp industry has been unsettled by an unexpected development.

Truckers, now free to haul hemp from state to state, have been stopped and sometimes arrested by police who can’t tell whether they have intercepted a legal agricultural crop or the biggest marijuana bust of their careers. That’s because the only way to distinguish hemp and marijuana, which look and smell alike, is by measuring their tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and officers don’t have the testing technology to do so on the spot.

Marijuana, illegal under federal law , has enough THC to get users high. Hemp has almost none — 0.3 percent or less under U.S. government standards — yet drug-sniffing dogs will alert on both. Field tests that officers now use can detect THC but aren’t sophisticated enough to specify whether a shipment is legal hemp or low-grade illegal pot.

In a sign of the significance of the problem, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration earlier this month put out a request for information on private companies that might have the technology for field tests sensitive enough to distinguish between hemp and marijuana.

“Nobody wants to see someone in jail for a month for the wrong thing,” DEA spokeswoman Barbara Carreno said. “To enable us to do our job, we have to have something that can help us distinguish.”

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