New hemp law creating gray area for law enforcement

Can you tell the different between hemp and marijuana? The problem is, neither can some in law enforcement.  Legalizing hemp is causing a whole new set of issues, creating a big gray area.

Police, prosecutors and even K-9s are all having trouble telling the difference. One lawmaker says there is a solution.

Hemp versus pot: it looks the same, smells the same and is stumping police across the state. Because it’s so hard to tell the difference between legal hemp and illegal marijuana, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office told deputies not to arrest people for cannabis. Daytona Beach Police and the Florida Sheriff’s Association sent out similar memos.

“The irony is they largely don’t arrest folks for small amounts of marijuana right now,” said Rep. Tom Leek, R- Daytona Beach.

According to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, their “current test kits cannot accurately detect the percentage of THC present in a green leafy substance. In other words, the test kits cannot distinguish between hemp, legal, and illegal cannabis.”

Rep. Leek says there are test kits to tell the difference. They’re just not widely used.

“[Now], I think we’ll see as the demand grows for that test, the supply will grow and the cost will come down,” said Rep. Leek.

The new law legalizing hemp in the state of Florida went into effect in July. So what is the difference? Marijuana and hemp come from the same plant, but marijuana has THC in it, and hemp has a miniscule amount.

Some law enforcement agencies are encouraging officer to take cannabis from people and still file complaints, but no arrests, leaving it up to the state attorney’s office to determine how to proceed.

“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that law enforcement has the tools to properly enforce the laws of the state.”

Volusia County isn’t the only place dealing with this. Parts of South Florida are also making similar calls in tackling hemp versus pot.

Rep. Leek says because of the confusion, this likely will be discussed again the next legislative session.