Problems arise distinguishing pot and hemp – MDCLC

Kimberly2 1 Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

The legal status of marijuana nationwide is constantly changing. Although Marijuana the drug remains illegal under federal law, many states have legalized it for medical (and sometimes recreational) use. Others, like Missouri, have decriminalized possession. We also legalized medical use in 2018.

Obviously, this creates some problems with interstate transportation of marijuana and products derived from it. To complicate matters further, federal lawmakers legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp last year, which is very similar to marijuana except without the high-causing chemical THC. According to news reports, the sudden change in status and the very similar properties of marijuana-derived products are leading to high-profile cases of wrongful arrest.

Although hemp has virtually no THC in it, there is currently not a field test to distinguish between illegal pot and legal hemp. Even drug-sniffing dogs will respond to both by alerting their handlers to presence of drugs.

Squarely in the middle of this debacle are interstate truckers who have been hired to transport legal hemp. In some cases, police officers arrest the truck drivers, thinking they have just made a huge marijuana bust. Several truck drivers and security guards accompanying shipments are currently facing felony drug trafficking charges. If convicted, they could face years to life in prison. Even if they are acquitted, they will have likely spent time in jail and lost the cargo they were transporting.

Because of the patchwork of state and federal laws, this problem is largely one of interstate transportation. Police officers in one state may choose to ignore or disregard official paperwork from another state showing that a hemp shipment is perfectly legal. Meanwhile, these arrests are violating the rights of law abiding citizens and diverting police resources from responding to actual crimes.

If you are currently facing criminal charges for any drug offense, you likely realize that the odds are stacked against you. As such, you need the help and advocacy of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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