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The Inability for Law Enforcement to Distinguish Hemp from Marijuana Leads to False Arrests


Police officers around the country have routinely been mistakenly cracking down on what they believe are marijuana busts, but what actually turn out to be sources of legal hemp. Law enforcement arguably found itself unprepared for the legalization of hemp, as even traditional tools – such as drug-sniffing dogs and tests that still only detect the presence of THC and not level of toxicity – no longer work in assisting them in distinguishing between the two.

Until now, hemp has been officially criminalized pursuant to a 1970 federal law. As a result, according to data, almost 300,000 acres of industrial hemp were planted this year alone. New York has the plan on approximately 2,000 acres statewide.

Placing New York Businesses in Danger

Still, the inability to tell the two apart by sight and smell means a number of false arrests and civil rights violations – perhaps even drug charges – every year committed by law enforcement assuming that there is illegal activity when there is not. For example, in November, the New York Police Department advertised that they had busted a shipment of 106 pounds of marijuana and charged the individual picking up the shipment with a felony, while it actually turned out to be a legal shipment of hemp.

These encounters aren’t exactly always safe or friendly. Many fear that incorrect seizures by police could put them out of business, and charges – although without any actual basis behind them – aren’t always dropped right away. The man whose hemp shipment was seized went to jail and plead not guilty.

In addition, there have even been circumstances under which, reportedly, some attempt to grow actual marijuana plants hidden in with legal hemp plants, and a lack of irrigation can cause legal hemp plants to overproduce THC, which carries a whole host of implications for New York farmers trying to legally growing hemp crops.

What About a Duty to Report Illegal Activity If You Don’t Know It’s Hemp?

The confusion doesn’t just change things for law enforcement, but also for everyone else. Is a FedEx worker obligated to inform the police if they suspect that a shipment could be marijuana if it is virtually identical to hemp and hemp is legal? The issue is likely to change culpability for a number of parties when it comes to a duty to report illegal activity and actually knowing whether that activity is illegal.

If You Have Questions, Contact Our Experienced New York Drug Crime Defense Attorneys

If you have been mistakenly accused of a drug crime, contact our experienced New York criminal defense attorneys at the office of Phillip J. Murphy today to find out how we can ensure that your rights are protected and you are not treated like a criminal.




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Phillip J. Murphy,
Attorney At Law
Free Consultations Calls Answered and returned 24/7 Phone: (845) 639-6600 Fax: (845) 639-6620

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Phillip J. Murphy, Attorney At Law is located in New City, New York and serves clients in and around New York, New Jersey & Connecticut. Contact our experienced criminal defense law firm.
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