After passage of the 2018 federal farm bill legalized hemp production, states scrambled to pass their own laws legalizing hemp and CBD. But in doing so, they may have inadvertently signed a death warrant for the enforcement of marijuana prohibition.
Forty-seven states have now legalized hemp, but only 11 have legalized marijuana. The other 36 may be in for a refresher course in the law of unintended consequences.
While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to think that, in addition to being the “Grim Reaper” of Capitol Hill, he hung the moon and is perhaps even the savior of American morality, it turns out that he’s probably not as smart as he’d like to believe. Because while he was scrambling around last year trying to become the godfather of industrial hemp legalization 2.0, not he, nor any of his lackey goons, stopped to consider that legitimizing a plant in the United States that is a first cousin to marijuana would somehow come back and bite him in his Kentucky tuchus.
Well, since weed and hemp are of the cannabis sativa classification, law enforcement is now having a heck of a time telling the two plants apart. It is a situation that has forced prosecutors all over the country to dismiss marijuana-related cases. They simply cannot determine without laboratory testing if a person is connected to illicit drugs or whether they are part of the nation’s newfound hemp trade. In fact, it is possible that this little snag in the system could eventually force the U.S. government to throw its hands up and finally legalize the leaf once and for all.
Indeed, marijuana prohibition is becoming more difficult to enforce nationwide. It’s a bit of a conundrum that is just now starting to become realized in the 47 states that have put hemp laws on the books. The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp in the U.S. for the first time since 1937, is really causing some trouble for those officials in charge of busting people for pot.
Smart boy McConnell, who still opposes legal weed, didn’t realize just how similar the two plants were when he rallied to spearhead hemp production. The only difference is, one gets people high and the other, with only .3% THC, can’t. But scientifically speaking, the two plants are the same — they are similar in appearance and have the same odor — which is throwing off K-9 units and field drug tests during those ever-so-popular roadside shakedowns. In fact, the only way law enforcement agencies can distinguish between hemp and marijuana is by sending questionable products to the crime lab for analysis.
Yet, not even this drawn out process is a reasonable solution to this debacle. These tests are expensive and, more importantly, they create a backlog for labs. Since nobody has time for all of that, some jurisdictions, including parts of Ohio and Texas, are trying to either find alternative measures for lab testing (perhaps farming these cases out to private firms) or they are simply pulling the plug on minor pot possession charges altogether. Because if they moved forward with prosecution, the alleged offenders would walk.
“The prosecution of marijuana possession charges would require drug testing that distinguishes hemp from marijuana,” Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein told the Columbus Dispatch. “Without this drug-testing capability, the city attorney’s office is not able to prove misdemeanor marijuana possession beyond a reasonable doubt” since “our current drug-testing technology is not able to differentiate.”
If we’re honest, it’s not like a slew of prosecutors across the country have all of a sudden stood up and said to hell with marijuana cases. If only we were that lucky. But we are starting to see more jurisdictions, including parts of Florida and Georgia, where this sort of retreat on the reefer is happening at the local level.
We suspect the trend will continue to grow, eventually forcing state lawmakers to either give consideration to the decriminalization of marijuana or full blown-legalization. Meanwhile, it isn’t going to take long for the confusion over hemp and marijuana to land smack dab in the middle of Washington D.C. And if Grim McConnell is still in his seat following the 2020 election — of course with a new staff because he fired the old ones for being too stupid to see that his hemp mission was going to inadvertently lead to marijuana legalization — we imagine his attitude over all cannabis plants will change in the spirit of good old fashioned politics and there will finally be a push to bring the stoner cousin out of the underground.
If that transpires, Mitch McConnell could end up being the best thing to ever happen to marijuana.