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Marijuana-CBD vs. Hemp-CBD—Is One Better Than The Other?

With CBD oils and products appearing on shelves and on-line stores everywhere, the awareness of this product has increased tremendously. 

With this increase in awareness has come an obvious increase of questions. One of the key ones being, “What is the difference between CBD products? Is hemp-derived CBD or marijuana-derived CBD better? What about full-spectrum CBD vs. isolate? 

The first thing we need to do is to discover that “hemp” and “marijuana” don’t really exist. 

Whoa. Say what? 

Yes, you read that correctly. Hemp and marijuana do not really exist EXCEPT as an arbitrary legal decision. This legal decision was only made just recently with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. This arbitrary is different in Europe. So a hemp plant here in the U.S. may be considered a marijuana plant in Europe.

The Legal Definition of Hemp and Marijuana

Both “hemp” and “marijuana” are varieties of the cannabis plant (more on cannabis later). As cannabis plants, both hemp and marijuana contain hundreds of chemical components. However, there is only one that determines whether or not the cannabis plant is considered hemp or marijuana—tetrahydrocannabinol a.k.a. THC. 

THC is the chemical compound that produces the mind-altering high. And while THC is but one of hundreds of components found in cannabis—it is most certainly the most well known. 

Until the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there was no clear distinction between the definition of hemp and marijuana. Now, U.S. law states that a cannabis plant is considered to be hemp if it contains 0.3% or less THC and marijuana if it contains over 0.3% THC. 

That is a very fine line of distinction, and if crossed, the plant and the products derived from the plant go from legal to illegal in many states. 

There is an arbitrary line between the legal definition of hemp and marijuana, in fact the legal line in the European Union is crossed at 0.2% THC. However, cannabis with a level of 0.3% THC is considered hemp here in the US and marijuana in Europe. 

Go figure.

THC Levels Today

But the reality is, whether marijuana is sold for medical or for recreational purposes, the THC levels today are much higher than 0.4%. 

Citing Colorado, an early legal state for legal cannabis, the publication Missouri Medicine reported that the THC content of cannabis is not like it used to be. Prior to the 1990s, THC levels of what was considered marijuana were less than 2%. In the 1990s it grew to 4%, and between 1995 and 2015 there was been a 212% increase in THC content in marijuana. 

In 2017 the most popular strains found in dispensaries in Colorado had a range of THC content from 17–28%. The paper goes on to say that cannabis plants producing high levels of THC are incapable of producing much CBD, the protective component of the plant so these strains have minimal CBD. 

Most balanced strains will tend to have CBD and THC levels in the neighborhood of 6-12%.

  CBD Molecule

Are CBD Molecules from Hemp and Marijuana Different?

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” 

Juliet from the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespere 

Just as the rose of Juliet’s muse would smell as sweet no matter what you called it—rose, rosa (Spanish), róża (Polish)—so is CBD the same molecule no matter what type of cannabis plant it comes from. Whether it’s hemp-derived CBD with a THC level of 0.3% or below, marijuana-derived CBD with above that level, it makes no difference. The CBD molecule and its pharmacology are the same. 

CBD oil, whether from hemp or marijuana, will have the same anti-inflammatory properties, the same anti-anxiety properties, the same pain relieving qualities and so on.

If the Terms Hemp and Marijuana are Arbitrary, What isn’t Arbitrary?

You may be thinking at this point, “OK, OK. Hemp and marijuana may legally be an arbitrary tenth of a percentage apart—but there ARE different plants, right?” 

And the answer to that is yes, there are. 

So here is the deal. 

If you look at the taxonomy of cannabis (taxonomy being the way that plants and animals are classified and organized) cannabis is part of the plant family Cannabaceae

Under the Cannabaceae family are three categories, or more properly three genuses.

  • Genus Humulus aka hops. Hops are used primarily as an agent in beer, to which, in addition to bitterness, they give floral, fruity, or citrus flavours and aromas. Hops are also used in other beverages and herbal medicine.
  • Genus Celtis (hackberries). Unlike it’s overachieving cousin cannabis, hackberries are good for almost nothing. (Every family has one of these cousins right?) Mostly, people just hack them down—literally. But seriously, hackberry trees do produce edible berries and are occasionally used for landscaping.
  • Genus Cannabis aka hemp and marijuana. The species and varieties of cannabis are used to produce everything from medicine, to fiber, to fuel and bioplastics. Cannabis is truly the shining child in the Cannabaceae family.

That brings us to the three specific species that have been identified under Genus Cannabis. 

Species: Cannabis Sativa 

First described by biologist Jean-Baptist Lamarck in 1785—Sativa strains are large and coarse. They are typically taller (6-12 feet), loosely branched and have long, narrow leaves. They are usually grown outdoors and can reach heights of up to 20 feet. 

Species: Cannabis Indica 

Again, first described in 1785 by Lamarck)—Shorter, densely branched and have wider leaves. They are better suited for growing indoors. 

Species: Cannabis Ruderalis 

First described by botanist D.E. Janischewsky in 1924—Very short. Not commonly grown for industrial, recreational or medicinal use.

  Hands Holding Marijuana Flower

Cannabis—An Unstable Species

OK—now for the bad news. In spite of the nice, clean description given of the Cannabis species above, and the very clear visual distinction between the three types of cannabis, it is not quite as clear as it looks. 

The fact is, there is no consensus among scientists about how to precisely define a species, and likely never will be. Scientists even admit it themselves. 

So from here, it gets messy. 

In fact, it gets messier and messier every year. 

As cannabis continues to be cultivated for a variety of purposes, the three species above have been interbred to retain desirable traits like hardiness. Cannabis species have also been cultivated to produce hybrids with specific chemical make-ups. Some hybrids are cultivated to produce exceptionally high levels of the cannabinoid CBD, THC or one of the other hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis.

Clearing up the Hemp Identity Crisis

When talking to Fusion CBD Founder Adam Kurtz on this subject, he expressed the difficulty in getting the true information about hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD understood. 

“I hear the statement that marijuana CBD is somehow superior to hemp CBD most from dispensary workers. People that make this statement do not understand this area,” explained Adam. “They think industrial hemp is tall skinny stalks, and that the CBD contained in those plants is not as good because it does not contain the full spectrum of other cannabinoids and terpenes found in marijuana.” 

Adam said that they might have had a point 3 or 4 years ago but it is not the case now. The cannabis plants that are grown under industrial hemp laws in the U.S., which is about 80% of the cannabis grown, have been bred to lower the THC, while preserving CBD, minor cannabinoids and terpenes. The result is a more “marijuana-like” CBD, for lack of a better term.

Where the Heck did the Terms Hemp and Marijuana Come From?

The term hemp has been used to describe cannabis—especially species Cannabis Sativa, the tall skinny one used for fiber—since the time of colonial America. Marijuana as a word came into common use in the U.S. much later. 

The term marijuana entered the U.S. between 1900 and 1930. It was brought by Mexicans who migrated to this country and brought with them the concept of smoking cannabis. As a result of the fear generated by this new use of cannabis in the U.S., the first bill passed against cannabis cultivation came in 1913. Later, Harry Anslinger, the Commissioner of Narcotics, made the abolition of all cannabis his mission. Anslinger used the foreign-sounding word “marijuana” when waging his war against the plant and made this term a household word. 

Hemp and marijuana became inextricably intertwined at that point. They were only just recently detangled as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill. 

Because of its racist, pejorative history, many prefer not to use the term marijuana at all. Health Canada, which has regulated medical marijuana since 2001, stopped using the word marijuana in its most recent set of rules, Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, adopted in 2016. Instead, they refer to it simply as cannabis. The word cannabis does not suffer from the negative connotations that the word marijuana has suffered from historically.

  CBD Oil

What Kind of CBD IS Better?

Now that we have made it clear that there is absolutely no difference between the molecule CBD regardless of what type of cannabis plant it comes from, there is a little more information you should have. 

The real choice in CBD products is not between hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD. The real choice is between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. 

It is important to know that cannabis contains A LOT more than just CBD or THC. Cannabis actually contains several things. In a full-spectrum CBD oil product, all of these are present in one quantity or another and work together in the body.

What is in Full-Spectrum CBD

  • Cannabinoids – There are about 100 different chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Research suggests that cannabinoids reduce anxiety and inflammation, relieve pain, control nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, kill cancer cells, slow tumor growth, relax tight muscles, and stimulate appetite and improve weight gain in people with cancer and AIDS. Exactly what each individual cannabinoid does is not fully known. More research in this area must be done. The cannabinoid CBG, for example, is known for its relaxing effects.
  • Terpenes – These are fragrant essential oils. They are widely used for medicinal purposes and have been found to help alleviate a variety of non-optimal health symptoms like insomnia, inflammation, pain among many others.
  • Flavonoids – Flavonoids are a group of nutrients found in plants. They are most known for providing vivid non-green color pigments to the plant kingdom such as the blue in blueberries and the red in roses. Flavonoids in cannabis also produce a range of effects. Flavonoids produce antioxidant and cardiovascular health benefits as well as positive effects on cholesterol levels.

Research has shown that full-spectrum CBD creates what is called the entourage effect. Because of the entourage effect, CBD works better when left together with everything else naturally occurring in hemp.

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Legal Update on Marijuana and Hemp Law Enforcement

With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was effectively legalized in all 50 states. The bill removed hemp from the DEA’s schedule 1 narcotics list. This opened the doors for farmers across the country to plant this versatile crop. 

However that didn’t necessarily clear the air for everyone in the hemp industry or law enforcement. A Minnesota driver carrying 300 pounds of hemp through South Dakota was recently stopped for speeding and arrested for possession of marijuana. The driver was bringing the hemp to a Minnesota processor from Denver, Colorado. The Argus Leader reported the driver was released and is awaiting the next steps in the legal process, but the total cost so far in legal fees and product loss exceeds $36,000. 

Unlike hemp, the legal status of marijuana was not changed with the passage of the farm bill. Marijuana remains a schedule 1 narcotic and is illegal in most states. Making matters more complicated, the legal status of hemp is even still in question in a few states like South Dakota. 

So while the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized industrial hemp, South Dakota legislators did not override Gov. Kristi Noem’s veto of a bill legalizing hemp in the state this year. 

The Department of Public Safety in South Dakota points out that hemp is still illegal in their state and that includes transporting it. 

Meanwhile the Minnesota Hemp Association is calling out South Dakota for violating the 2018 Farm Bill. This case highlights the urgent need for consistent state laws regarding the hemp industry.

The Backstory of Hemp

Hemp and marijuana are both part of the plant species cannabis. The truth is, the term marijuana did not enter into common use in the U.S. until the 1920s and 1930s. At the time the term marijuana came into use, there wasn’t a specific marijuana plant or definition of marijuana. 

There were and are three different types of cannabis species–cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. These have historically been referred to blanketly as hemp. 

Hemp has been a part of U.S. History since the founding of our country. Prior to the 1900s, hemp was not generally used for smoking in the US. Prior to the revolutionary war the colonies produced sacks, paper, cordage, cloth and canvas from hemp. This continued into the 1800’s. The psychoactive properties of hemp were well known by the 18th century. However, there is no evidence that colonial Americans used hemp for mind-altering purposes.

Enter Marijuana

Between 1900 and 1930, there was a large-scale migration from Mexico to the US. With them came the concept of smoking cannabis aka hemp. The first bill to be passed against the cultivation of cannabis was in 1913. Later, Harry Anslinger, in his position as Commissioner of Narcotics, leveraged the cannabis issue for professional advancement and security. He made the abolition of smoking cannabis his mission. Anslinger used the foreign-sounding term “marijuana” when campaigning against the plant and it was he who made this term a household word. 

At that time and for the decades following hemp and marijuana were legally regarded as the same thing.

What is the Difference?

Up until recently, the question of the difference between hemp and marijuana was very difficult to answer. With all of the new strains of both hemp and marijuana being developed. 

But today, because of the 2018 Farm Bill, the answer to the question is very straightforward. Cannabis is considered hemp if it contains less than 0.3% THC and marijuana if it contains over that amount. This is the first time that there is a stated definition of each that allows the two —hemp and marijuana —to be identified as distinct plants. 

The bill defines hemp as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

Why Cannabis Enforcement is a Problem

The problem with enforcing marijuana laws, is that apart from the invisible chemical makeup of hemp and marijuana, the difference in the level of THC, there are virtually no outward physical characteristics differentiating the two. In addition to that, even testing the level of THC is difficult. 

It was for exactly this reason that Commissioner of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, was able to effectively ban both hemp and marijuana in the 1930s—essentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  Why Enforce Cannabis?

How a Few States are Coping with Cannabis Law Enforcement Issues

Texas

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a new law on June 10 which allows for a federally approved program for farmers to grow hemp as an industrial crop. The law also expanded the type of products that can be purchased in the state to include any hemp or hemp-derived product containing less than 0.3 percent of THC. 

But marijuana is still illegal in Texas. 

As a result of the new law, on July 10, all Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers were instructed to cite and release people with a misdemeanor amount of the suspected drug —less than 4 ounces —when possible. 

The difficulty in differentiating between hemp and marijuana has led prosecutors in some Texas jurisdictions to drop hundreds of low-level marijuana cases and stop accepting new ones.

 DPS said that before the hemp law, they were arresting and booking people on marijuana possession cases in most counties. They further stated that they will continue to do that in jurisdictions where prosecutors are accepting cases without a quantitative lab report.

Ohio

This loosening up on enforcement of marijuana laws goes even further in the state of Ohio. 

On July 20, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed SB 57 approving hemp in that state. 

Subsequently, the Ohio Attorney General’s office sent a letter to every prosecutor in the state. The letter says: 

“BCI (the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation) is in early stages of validating methods to meet this new legal requirement. Suspend any identification of marijuana testing in your local jurisdiction by law enforcement previously trained.” 

Most crime labs in Ohio only have the ability to detect the presence of THC but not the specific amount. Even the state crime lab at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) cannot distinguish between the legal and illegal amount of THC. 

A spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office told 10TV WBNS that the passage of SB 57 effectively puts a temporary stop to any prosecution of any marijuana cases statewide. The bureau is continuing to work on getting instrumentation and procedures necessary to measure the quantity of THC, a process which is anticipated to take many months.

Florida

Meanwhile In the Sunshine State, the state legislature also recently passed SB 1020 on July 1st. The legislation legalized hemp and CBD products. 

In response, in the same month, the Florida Sheriffs Association sent out a legal alert stating that law enforcement officers can no longer use the sight or smell to determine possession of marijuana. They need extra indicators like other drugs, paraphernalia or guns. 

“Sheriffs should not assume that a positive field test provides probable cause to search or arrest,” the alert reads. “Additional factors aside from a canine alert may be needed to establish probable cause.” 

As with other states, law enforcement simply does not have the ability to distinguish hemp from marijuana. “Hemp is legal, marijuana is not. So how do we know one from the other?” said Dr. Dave Thomas, a criminal justice expert from Florida Gulf Coast University.

  Minnesota In The Morning

Minnesota

Some states, like Minnesota, are seeing a loosening up of already comparatively loose marijuana law enforcement. Minnesota decriminalized the possession or sale without the exchange of money of less than 42.5 grams of marijuana in 1976. The first offense became a petty misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $200 fine and possible drug education. Additional infractions face increased penalties. Possession of larger quantities of marijuana or the sale of any amount is a felony in Minnesota. 

Minnesota has been growing hemp since the passage of HF 1437. Passed in 2015, the bill featured a hemp amendment which provided for the framework to develop a hemp pilot program under the state’s Department of Agriculture. 

Even before the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, Minneapolis police quit the practice of targeting small-scale marijuana sellers in downtown after revelations that nearly everyone arrested was black.

South Dakota

Right next door to Minnesota in South Dakota, it is a whole different story. Hemp Farming and research is not legal in South Dakota. Current state law in South Dakota even makes all forms of CBD oil illegal in that state. 

House Bill 1191 was introduced this year and would have legalized the growth, production, and processing of industrial hemp and derivative products. 

“After a robust discussion of HB 1191 during the recent legislative session, the legal status under state law did not change, hemp and CBD oils remain illegal in South Dakota,” said Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. 

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem vetoed the bill on March 12.

Where it is Not a Problem

In states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California and many others, where recreational marijuana is legal, the issue of enforcement is obviously not an issue. 

The question for law enforcement in other states will be how to deal with the issue moving forward. As with any new field cooperation between hemp farmers and CBD manufacturers and those entrusted to enforce existing laws within their state is vital. 

At Fusion CBD we have been called upon for advice and help from law enforcement to make sure that laws are being followed.

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Hemp Legal in Ohio! Governor Signs CBD Bill Into Law

Hemp Legal in Ohio as of July 25th 2019! Legislative actions affecting the farming and distribution of hemp products are being passed at an amazing rate. 

In fact, Law.com reports that it’s rare a day goes by without changes in how the hemp industry is regulated. 

The most recent major legislative action happened in Ohio, home of the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame. On July 25, Mike Dewine signed Senate Bill 57

This bill directs the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to draft rules to regulate the licensing and processing of hemp. This action was music to the ears of Ohioans in the hemp business. Even after the Farm Bill of 2018 was passed, taking CBD off the schedule 1 list of narcotics, stores carrying CBD in Ohio were forced to remove CBD hemp products from their shelves. 

But no more. Now with hemp legal finally, CBD products are back on store shelves in Ohio, and this time for good. 

Consistent with the 2018 federal Farm Bill, SB 57 removed hemp from the controlled substances list.

What Happens Now with Hemp Legal in Ohio?

Much to the delight of CBD users, the law allows CBD to enter the state freely and on an immediate basis. However, it will be a while before hemp can be commercially grown or processed in Ohio. 

As with any law, it is now over to the agency whose job it is to enforce it. In this case, the torch has been passed to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The department will create a hemp program which they will administer. 

They will also set up a licensing structure for farmers who are interested in growing and/or processing hemp legally. 

Ohio agriculture officials have six months to draft new rules and regulations regulating the industry. From there, the rules will go to the feds for approval. The goal is to get everything in place so farmers can plant their legal hemp crops in the spring of 2020.

  Ed McCauley of Fusion CBD discusses CBD + Hemp Legal in Ohio

Fusion CBD and Ed McCauley

Fusion CBD co-founder Ed McCauley is all too familiar with the process that Ohio policymakers, hemp farmers, and hemp producers are embarking on. 

“New York made farming hemp legal in 2017. We are now in our second year of planting in this state,” said McCauley. McCauley relocated from New Jersey to Orange County, New York just before jumping into the hemp industry in Oregon with partner Adam Kurtz. 

“Even though it has been a few years in New York, the state is still struggling with the rules and regulations of oversight of this industry,” he further explained.

Fusion CBD operates in several states, including New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Maryland. McCauley is actively participating in the draft reviews and possible edits to the current bill at the New York legislative level. 

“We have found that it is easier to farm hemp in Oregon from a regulatory standpoint. However we look forward to smoother regulatory controls in New York in the future,” said McCauley. “Our goal is to take what has been learned and offer it to new states as they navigate the departmental and rule making process.” 

One of the challenges for hemp farmers in New York in the past has been getting a license to plant. It looks, however, like Ohio hemp farmers may not have to face that particular obstacle. 

Ohio Department of Agriculture Director, Dorothy Pelanda, stated that the agency does not plan to limit the number of licenses issued to cultivate or process hemp. 

Despite the challenges that lie ahead since Ohio made hemp legal, the recent passage of SB 57 is worth celebrating.

Making CBD + Hemp Legal is an Opportunity for Learning

With the passage of SB 57, universities will now have an opportunity to cultivate and process hemp for research purposes. 

In fact, that application process is already open for Ohio universities. No hemp cultivation or processing license is required to participate. 

One university, Central State University, is ready to start. They are hoping to become Ohio’s first public university to plant seeds under the university hemp research program. 

Hemp is an incredibly diverse crop. It is grown for fiber, grain, and cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp can be used thousands of products—food, rope, textile, and of course for health. 

Ohio Central State’s cultivation will include four varieties of hemp at the research farm. It will provide valuable education to students and Ohio growers alike. 

It also will provide the ODA and the medical community with access to their current research findings. 

The university-sponsored research would help Ohio farmers explore alternative crops to diversify and optimize their farm operations. 

Dr. Craig Schluttenhofer, a research assistant and professor of natural products, is leading Central State’s hemp research team. 

He is focusing on the production, processing, genetics, breeding, and biochemistry of hemp. Schluttenhofer began conducting hemp research in May 2014 at the University of Kentucky.

  CBD + Hemp Legal in Ohio

Hemp Expected to be BIG in Ohio

Ohio is the 47th state to regulate hemp. The Ohio Farm Bureau has predicted it will become the state’s third-largest crop, behind corn and soybeans. 

The bill allows for the cultivation and research of hemp as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. In fact, the legal difference between hemp and marijuana, both cannabis plants, is that level of TCH. 

Cannabis with a level above .3% is considered marijuana. It should be noted that most marijuana, as you think of it, has levels of THC much higher than .4%. 

THC is the psychoactive compound of cannabis and is what that gives marijuana its high. Hemp is a cannabis plant that does not produce intoxicating effects. 

The Ohio Department of Agriculture will be testing hemp products for safety and accurate labeling to protect Ohio consumers. 

In August of 2018, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy asserted that the sale of CBD products fell under its control as part of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program (OMMCP). 

This made the sale of CBD without a license unlawful. SB 57 expressly removes all hemp products from the definition of controlled substances under Ohio law and clarifies that neither CBD or hemp are subject to the OMMCP.

The Work Ahead for Keeping CBD + Hemp Legal

According to Cleveland.com, the Ohio Department of Agriculture plans to ask the state for $12 million next month. Expenditures would include buying equipment to test plants and hemp products. 

Between now and when state testing and labeling rules are approved, agency officials will check products for unauthorized claims and conditions that don’t meet food safety guidelines.

Regulation of the Hemp Industry and CBD at the Federal Level

As the Ohio Department of Agriculture starts its processes of regulating their state’s hemp industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making its own plans to issue federal rules for hemp cultivation and processing in the entire country. 

According to the Federal Register, The Daily Journal of the United States Government, an action to establish rules and regulations for the domestic production of hemp was to happen in August of 2019. The purpose of this action is to implement provisions of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) 

“I don’t think we are going to see the rules that soon,” said Ed McCauley. “From everything that I am hearing from various people involved in the hemp industry politically, we are probably looking at October at the earliest.” 

Sonia Jimenez, the Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program at the Department of Agriculture is the agency contact. 

She was not able to shed any additional light on the date that hemp farmers and processors can expect to see the regulations.

“USDA is working diligently to issue hemp regulations this fall to allow for a 2020 crop to be grown,” was all Ms. Jimenez was able to say. 

“The truth is, what the USDA is putting together are regulatory minimums,” said Ed McCauley. “Things will still look different in each state as they are able to add their own provisions on top of whatever is dictated at the federal level.”

  1/8th of hemp legal in Ohio

Unintended Effects of Ohio Making Hemp Legal with SB 57

As a result of the passage of Ohio SB 57, city law enforcement in Columbus Ohio will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases and is dropping all pending cases. 

That’s the decision of Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. He announced the move on Wednesday, August 7, just weeks after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the hemp legislation bill. 

Klein says the legalization of hemp in Ohio, signed by Governor Mike DeWine on July 30th, prompted his decision. 

“The passage of Senate Bill 57 requires a distinction between hemp and marijuana, but our current drug testing technology is not able to differentiate, so we will not have the evidence required to prosecute these cases,” said Klein. 

“SB 57 has opened up a broader conversation about how we should prosecute minor misdemeanor marijuana possession cases in the future.” 

Klein cited the substantial cost of new equipment and testing versus the possible benefit of prosecuting these often-dismissed cases. 

In addition to the recent ordinance passed by Columbus City Council, as reasons his office will discuss whether to make this new policy permanent. 

The ordinance referred to by Klein was passed on July 22 by the Columbus City Council passed to reduce penalties for possessing marijuana. 

Offenders caught with up to 100 grams would be fined $10. Those caught with 100 and 200 grams would pay $25. Unlike state law, possession of up to 200 grams will not lead to possible jail time.

Making Hemp Legal is A Boost to Farmers, A Problem for Law Enforcement

SB 57 promises to provide a huge boost to Ohio farmers. However, it creates a problem for law enforcement, who are unable to easily distinguish between hemp and marijuana. 

Most crime labs in the state only have the ability to detect the presence of THC, not the specific amount. 

Even the state crime lab at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) cannot distinguish between the legal and illegal amount of THC. 

A spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office told 10TV WBNS that the Bureau is working to implement the instrumentation and procedure necessary to measure the quantity of THC. 

Meanwhile, the passage of SB 57 effectively puts a temporary stop to any prosecution of any marijuana cases statewide. 

It will take months for the agency to have the testing equipment required to enforce marijuana laws. This week the Ohio Attorney General’s office sent a letter to every prosecutor in the state. The letter says: 

“BCI is in early stages of validating methods to meet this new legal requirement. Suspend any identification of marijuana testing in your local jurisdiction by law enforcement previously trained.”

Experienced Hemp Farmers Aid in Law Enforcement

Fusion CBD owners Ed McCauley and Adam Kurtz are familiar with the confusion experienced by law enforcement between hemp and marijuana. 

In the past, shipments of Fusion’s own hemp have been held up for long periods of time as local law enforcement tried to sort out what they were looking at. 

More recently, law enforcement officials have called upon Ed and Adam for advice in this regard. 

“There has been great progress working with law enforcement forensics in trying to develop testing that can distinguish marijuana from hemp”. 

This may happen sooner than later at the lab level, but will still be some time before testing of this type is available for roadside stops,” said McCauley. 

“In the interest of a successful Hemp industry, both stateside and nationally, we do whatever we can to help,” McCauley concluded.