Ohio Legislators Accidentally Legalized Pot, Say Law Enforcement Experts

State contortions to legalize hemp in Ohio got so complicated that it now looks like misdemeanor marijuana charges won’t be prosecuted — in effect legalizing pot for the time being.

That’s pretty much the conclusion of legal experts and the state attorney general. Columbus officials have already declared they’re dropping prosecution of pot misdemeanors.

The state passed a law July 30 legalizing hemp by changing the definition of marijuana to exclude hemp, based on the amount of THC, which is the chemical that gets people high. A THC level of 0.3% or less is legal hemp, while a THC level over 0.3% is marijuana, which is still illegal in Ohio — though medical marijuana dispensaries are legal in the state.

But who can figure out those THC levels? Police can’t.

“Now we have to be able to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana,” Jason Pappas, vice president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, told WBNS-10TV. “That … has to be done through crime analysis.”

But most crime labs in Ohio can’t detect the quantity of THC in marijuana.

“Until these testing requirements are fixed … it’s going to be very difficult to go after any marijuana cases in Ohio,” Pappas said. “You legalized marijuana in Ohio for [the] time being.”

The head of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association agreed that the hemp law in effect “legalizes marijuana in Ohio … for a time.” 

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a letter to state prosecutors warning them that it could take “several months” before the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation establishes a reliable system to determine THC levels, according to WBNS.

In the meantime, the bureau is recommending prosecutors “suspend identification of marijuana testing” and not indict “any cannabis-related items.”

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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