Ohio County Declines to Prosecute Illegal Cannabis Cultivation

Ashtabula County, Ohio has joined the growing ranks of local jurisdictions that have opted out of enforcing cannabis laws in light of hemp’s newly legal status.

Full story after the jump.

A cannabis eradication law enforcement action in Ashtabula County, Ohio uncovered as many as 85 plants but law enforcement officials levied no charges due to the state’s recently passed hemp law, News 5 Cleveland reports.

In a letter to state prosecutors, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation – an agency involved in the sweep – noted that THC-rich cannabis “cannot be identified solely by historical techniques (microscopic examination and Duquenois-Levine color testing)” and “Quantitative analysis is necessary to ensure the THC content exceeds the statutory 0.3 [percent] level.” In the letter, BCI recommends suspending cannabis enforcement and not try “any cannabis-related items […] prior to the crime laboratory … being capable to perform the necessary quantitative analysis.”

Earlier this month, Attorney General Dave Yost announced the creation of a program to help law enforcement agencies differentiate between hemp and illegal cannabis. The program will provide agencies with $50,000 to have “large quantities” of cannabis tested by laboratories with the technology to test THC content.

Crime Enforcement Agency of Ashtabula County Commander Detective Greg Leonhard told NBC 5 there wasn’t enough cannabis seized in this week’s Drug Enforcement Administration-funded flyover enforcement action to charge anyone with a third-degree felony and the hemp law change makes further investigation into the grows impractical. He added that the with the attorney general’s program, people could be charged during next year’s enforcement actions.

No hemp cultivation licenses have been issued in Ohio, so cultivation of the plant is still, technically, illegal in the state.

Some law enforcement officials in other states without legalized cannabis – including Nebraska, Georgia and Texas – have said they would not make arrests or commit to prosecutions for low-level cannabis charges citing their state’s passage of hemp legalization legislation.

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