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Ohio crime labs able to differentiate hemp from marijuana

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An upgrade in equipment at Ohio’s three state crime labs has allowed technicians to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana but is not likely to have much effect on how law enforcement agencies enforce drug laws.

Upgraded testing began two weeks ago at state crime labs in Richfield, Bowling Green, and London, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Cities throughout the state, including Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, no longer fine or jail people caught with small amounts of marijuana. The Ohio Legislature last year approved the cultivation of hemp, a cannabis plant that is supposed to contain less than .3 percent THC, the psychoactive and intoxicating ingredient in marijuana.

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Prior to the upgrade, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation crime labs could not measure the amount of THC in cannabis samples.

Columbus stopped enforcing low-level marijuana cases when officials became concerned that defense attorneys would insist on lab tests of seized marijuana, the newspaper reported.

Some cities continue to enforce marijuana possession laws.

Norwalk City Prosecutor Douglas Sassen said police in that central Ohio city prosecute marijuana cases using state laws despite a city ballot measure from 2016 that called for no jail time or fines for low-level possession.