New Ohio law on hemp blurring lines for law enforcement - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

New Ohio law on hemp blurring lines for law enforcement

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

A new Ohio law is blurring the lines for law enforcement when it comes to determining what's hemp and what's marijuana.

Senate Bill 57 that was signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on July 30th allows Ohio farmers to grow hemp as a new revenue source.  

But some are wondering if the new law may have accidentally, effectively legalized marijuana in the state.

Law enforcement agencies here in the Mahoning Valley and statewide are scrambling to understand how to address the new law.

That's because by licensing hemp cultivation in Ohio, it changes the legal definition of marijuana.  Marijuana now has to be defined by the concentration of the chemical THC it contains.

Some are even questioning if lawmakers inadvertently legalized marijuana by approving the measure?

Ohio's Attorney General held a news conference in Columbus to specifically address that question.

"The Ohio Legislature did not legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.  Every single marijuana case in Ohio can be prosecuted today; it's just going to take a little additional resources," Attorney General Yost said.

The state's crime lab, known as BCI or the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, has no current ability to test for the concentration of 
THC, the chemical in the leafy plant that gets someone high.  But private labs do have the equipment and the testing knowledge.

If the THC level is higher than three-tenths of one percent or lower -- it is considered hemp and is legal.  But, if the THC concentration is higher than three-tenths of one percent -- it's considered illegal marijuana.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said in some cases local police would likely confiscate the suspected marijuana, write up a report and have two years to test it and file charges.

"It's going to be up to each individual department as to whether they want to conduct the tests. Obviously when you have a large amount of marijuana the test is going to be conducted, because we're not going to allow cost to inhibit justice," Gains said.

Attorney General Yost says BCI will have the proper equipment and training by the beginning of next year to do testing for free for local law enforcement.

In the meantime, the AG has set aside $50,000 to reimburse police who need to do testing with a private lab, but only for suspected trafficking cases where the suspect could be sentenced to jail time.

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