Even though several states around the country have legalized recreational marijuana, they are still in the minority. In the majority of states, it is still illegal. Many of these states, however, have legalized hemp. In fact, 47 states in total have legalized this plant that looks almost identical to marijuana. As these states are now learning, that is a major problem. While these states are making strides to correct the problem, it is going to be a long time before they are able to.
“The problem is that so many of these states rushed into hemp legislation and did not think about how it would conflict with their current marijuana laws,” says attorney Justin Spizman of Hawkins Spizman Fortas. “It is hard to say whether this dilemma is helping or hurting those that have been accused of marijuana crimes.”
The problem these states are having is that they do not have the technology to determine what is a hemp plant and what is a marijuana plant. The methods they once used no longer work. For example, many crime labs throughout the country can detect if a plant has any THC at all. They cannot detect how much THC a plant has. Currently, the generally accepted standard for hemp is less than 0.3 percent. That means a hemp plant could be mistaken for marijuana, and an innocent person could face charges.
Some states, such as Texas, have simply decided to drop low-level marijuana charges. Some police departments are even telling their officers not to search cars or pursue marijuana charges. Unfortunately, there are inconsistencies and not every department is being told the same thing. That is only adding to the chaos.
While dropping the most minor marijuana charges is good news for those that have been accused, not every state is taking that tactic. Some crime labs in Texas, in fact, have stated that they no longer need to test the plant. In some instances, they can charge someone for failing to present a certificate stating they were licensed to transport hemp. That is not reliable evidence, and it is certainly not good news for those accused of a crime they did not commit.
Crime labs across the country are scrambling to get the technology they need to properly test for marijuana. In some states, it will take a few weeks, while in others it will take up to a year. Time will only tell if this confusion is good news or bad news for those facing marijuana charges, that may not involve marijuana at all.