Update to Hemp Law Changes Prosecution for Marijuana Possession

In Florida, on July 1, 2019, the definition for hemp was updated to include products that have .3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), making it legal. Although recreational marijuana use is still illegal, the changes to the law have made it difficult for state attorneys to prosecute individuals charged with possessing the substance.

The Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana both come from the same cannabis plant, but the former contains less of the psychoactive substance than the latter. Aside from the amount THC in them, the two are virtually indistinguishable from each other by sight and smell.

Hemp is considered an agricultural product primarily used for industrial purposes, and since Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill, it is no longer illegal. However, marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it does not have an accepted medical use and can potentially be abused. For that reason, possession of it is still unlawful under state and federal statutes.

Dropping Low-Level Marijuana Cases

Legalizing hemp has made it difficult for police officers to enforce marijuana possession laws and for prosecutors to try these types of cases. Because the two look and smell the same, warrantless searches based on a cop smelling marijuana on a person could be deemed unconstitutional. If the person is carrying hemp on them, as opposed to marijuana, they are not committing an offense and looking through the individual’s possessions could be illegal. Some police departments have halted such “sniff and search” procedures.

The new hemp definition also makes it challenging for prosecutors to try cases in which a person was arrested for marijuana possession. Current testing methods can detect if THC is in a product, but it cannot determine the amount. That means law enforcement wouldn’t be able to tell which if the two substances a person had on them. Although there may be testing methods available to check for THC levels, sending a product out for testing would be costly. As such, state attorneys have said they might not prosecute low-level possession cases.

Federal Courts Plan to Continue Prosecuting Marijuana Cases

Although state attorneys have suggested they will not try some marijuana cases, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Florida has said it will continue to prosecute. It stated it will look at the specific circumstances of each case before proceeding. It has even asked some assistant state attorneys to be temporarily sworn in as federal prosecutors to help with trying these matters.

Call The Law Office of David A. Webster, P.A. for a Free Consultation

If you were charged with possession of marijuana, call our knowledgeable legal team today. Backed by over 30 years of combined legal experience, we know the law, and we will fight hard to ensure your rights are protected. When you retain our services, we will review the evidence being presented in your case to determine if it was legally obtained. We will work toward getting your charges reduced or dropped.

For personalized legal representation, call us at (407) 326-0650 or contact us online.