Did marijuana just get legalized in the Buckeye State? Not quite, but new legislation that was signed in September by Governor DeWine has thrown a wrench in the state’s ability to investigate and prosecute marijuana cases. The legislation legalizes cannabis with a low THC content, also called hemp, but Ohio crime labs don’t have the ability to distinguish between low and high THC cannabis. Until Ohio updates its crime lab testing procedures, many prosecutions for marijuana charges will be put on hold.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP, we are carefully monitoring these developments, as they may have a significant effect on the outcomes of our clients’ marijuana possession and trafficking cases. When we defend your case, we explore every possible avenue for obtaining a positive case resolution. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime in Cincinnati, contact us today at (513) 338-1890 for a free and confidential consultation.
New Hemp Bill Limits Ohio’s Ability to Prosecute Marijuana Cases
Senate Bill 57 allows Ohio farmers to grow hemp and defines hemp as any cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC–the chemical primarily responsible for marijuana’s high. Any other cannabis plant with a higher concentration is considered marijuana, which remains a controlled substance. Hemp and marijuana look the same and, short of taking a puff, the only way you can tell them apart is by testing for THC concentrations in a lab.
Unfortunately for prosecutors, Ohio crime labs run by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) only test whether a substance contains THC or not. The same goes for the Columbus police crime lab. Their tests do not reveal what percentage of THC a substance contains. This means that the state has no way of distinguishing between legal hemp and illegal marijuana in a criminal prosecution.
As a result, prosecutors have been winding down marijuana charges around Ohio. In Columbus, City Attorney Zach Klein announced that their office would no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases. The BCI has recommended that other prosecutor offices “suspend identification of marijuana testing,” and requested them to refrain from indicting “cannabis-related items.”
Ohio Crime Labs Are Developing New Testing Standards
The troubles with prosecuting marijuana offenses are likely to be short lived. As soon as Ohio crime labs adopt more precise testing for THC, prosecutions will resume. According to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, in letter to state prosecutors, the “BCI is in early … stages of validating … methods to meet this new legal requirement.” Yost added that the process could “take several months.”
For now, law enforcement and prosecutors have their hands tied. In an interview with WBNS 10TV, Jason Pappas, the vice president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, said: “Until these testing requirements are fixed and until we get some additional training and resources available to us, it’s going to be very difficult to go after any marijuana cases in Ohio.”
Ohio’s marijuana penalties can be harsh. If you are not authorized to possess medical marijuana, possession of more than 200 grams leads to felony charges involving fines of $2,500 and one year behind bars. Additionally, if you get caught with more than 100 grams, you face a six month to five-year driver’s license suspension. With a felony conviction on your record and with no driving license, you may find it all but impossible to find and maintain a job.
Fight Your Cincinnati Marijuana Charges
Fortunately, a Cincinnati drug crimes lawyer can help you avoid these penalties. By acting early and decisively on your behalf, we at Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP may be able to clear your name and ensure that you can get back to your life. For more information about how to defeat Cincinnati marijuana charges, contact us today at (513) 338-1890 for your free consultation.