After being caught in regulatory limbo, Ohio police can now determine the THC levels of both hemp and marijuana plants, allowing the state to recommence cannabis arrests.
In July last year, Ohio's governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 57 in July of 2019 decriminalized hemp and legalized the plant for industrial purposes.
The passage of Bill 57 was a win for hemp advocates who frequently tout the benefits of the plant in creating fibers, paper, clothing, textiles, and many more articles. However, it became immediately apparent that the legalization of industrial hemp cultivation would create issues for law enforcement within the state upon doing so.
This is due to the previous inability for prosecutors to determine precisely what the THC level is within hemp plants of those found carrying it, making it near-impossible for legislators to differentiate between hemp and marijuana.
As a result, prosecutors were told that they either delay the cases in which low-level marijuana possession was involved otherwise they should simply let the case go.
In essence, Ohio had enacted a de facto decriminalization of Marijuana, with cases unable to be prosecuted such as when a police officer pulled over the high-profile Browns Running Back Kareem Hunt and "suspected the NFL player had marijuana." In that instance, the police officer couldn't press charges.
Now, Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation has acquired the necessary equipment to differentiate marijuana plants from hemp, which means that local Ohio departments can begin sending samples to the lab and pursuing cases.
Though in certain areas of Ohio, such as Columbus, certain prosecutors are refusing to pursue low-level cannabis crimes, even in light of the new testing equipment.
The nearly year-long break from pursuing cannabis prosecution could spark a revision in Ohio's marijuana laws, particularly during COVID-19 in which many low-level offenders are already being released from prison to ensure social distancing measures continue as planned.
Will Ohio begin to crack down on cannabis users? Or has the hash-hiatus been long enough to prompt change?
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