While more states have begun to legalize recreational marijuana use, marijuana still remains illegal at the federal level. However, hemp, which is derived from the same plant family as marijuana, is perfectly legal throughout the country. While this may seem confusing and contradictory at first, the reason why the plants are treated differently stems from the levels of THC each contains.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the substance in marijuana that produces psychoactive effects in the body. Despite hemp also being derived from the cannabis plant, it has very low levels of THC and does not produce any psychoactive effects. While this key difference allows hemp to be legal at the federal level, it also raises some issues.
Different growing conditions
When growing hemp, it’s typically best to let the plant grow outside to encourage larger growth and lower THC. On the other hand, plants grown for marijuana use require more careful growing conditions to encourage flowering and a higher level of THC, meaning they are usually grown inside or in special greenhouses.
While a cannabis plant is still growing, law enforcement can usually easily identify which version of the plant it is. This makes it easier for them to avoid potential mistakes during an arrest or when responding to a call. However, not every mistake can be prevented.
Confusion can lead to false drug charges
One notable problem with hemp being legal while marijuana is illegal is that it can be confusing for law enforcement. Hemp and marijuana look very similar after being harvested. In fact, police sometimes need to rely on laboratory tests to determine exactly which version of cannabis they’ve found. Unfortunately, this confusion can lead to unwarranted drug charges for some.
If you have hemp in your possession and are stopped by the police, you could be arrested for having a completely legal substance. Ultimately, your charges should be dismissed following a lab test. However, you may have already suffered unfair treatment by then, including jail time and having a drug arrest on your record. If you are facing an inaccurate drug charge, be sure to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney for help.