Columbus, Ohio City Attorney Zach Klein will continue to decline to prosecute low-level cannabis cases despite the state’s crime laboratories upgrading to have the capability to differentiate between legal hemp and illegal cannabis, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Klein had joined some law enforcement officials and prosecutors throughout the U.S. who said they would not prosecute low-level cases following federal and state hemp legalization because their state did not have the infrastructure to conduct tests to determine THC levels. Klein said that the testing issue was one of many factors that led to his decision to decline to prosecute low-level cannabis crimes.
“Our decision to stop prosecuting low-level, misdemeanor marijuana possession was based on 1many factors, including the lack of testing capabilities at the time, our city council’s decision to institute a low-dollar fine for violations, and overall disparities and inequities in the criminal justice system. If anything, in light of the spread of the coronavirus in our jail and prison system, we believe our policy reflects a real-world approach that focuses on incarceration for only those that should be behind bars.”– Klein in a statement via Cleveland.com
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced last week that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation upgraded its Richfield, London, and Bowling Green labs to measure quantities of THC, rather just the presence of the cannabinoid.
Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said in a statement that prior to the upgrades, the only solution for law enforcement to test cannabis was “expensive private testing.”
Since the hemp reforms, Yost’s office provided law enforcement agencies $3,972 in grant funding to test samples in eight cases tied to over 20 felony charges. The state also provided $968,602 for drug testing equipment and, in all, $700,000 has been spent on the instruments necessary to conduct quantitative analysis.
Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci told the Dispatch that he could “probably count on one hand” the number of defense attorneys who attempted to use a hemp defense in a cannabis case in the state.