Law enforcement officials in some Nebraska counties are suspending low-level cannabis crime enforcement after the legalization of hemp, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reports.
Prosecutors in Sarpy and Lancaster counties have said they wouldn’t prosecute such cases until a THC test was available, while Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said he would continue trying the cases using the previous state law that only allowed University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers to possess hemp.
Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon said the hemp law “is causing problems” for cannabis enforcement and estimated that it would cost between $1,500 and $2,000 to bring someone in from Pennsylvania, which is the closest state with a lab that can test for THC levels. In Nebraska, the typical fine for simple cannabis possession is about $300.
Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said that prosecutors “need a good lab report” before they can get a conviction and prosecutors in the state don’t have access to a laboratory that can test cannabis for THC levels.
State Sen. Justin Wayne told the Star-Herald that the bill was amended at the request of county prosecutors to allow them to prosecute cases where the defendant doesn’t have proof that the product in question is hemp, and that it has been tested and falls below the 0.3 percent THC threshold. Wayne said that, under the law, anyone who fails to provide that proof could be fined up to $1,000 – which is higher than a simple possession charge.
“We gave prosecutors a different option to prosecute. They can still prosecute. It’s just a different law.” – Wayne, to the Star-Herald
Nebraska’s situation is not unique – where cannabis is illegal, but hemp was recently legalized. Gwinnett and Cobb Counties in Georgia have each said they would suspend enforcement until they could find a way to test for THC levels, along with prosecutors in Texas and Florida.
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