The Guilford County Sheriff’s Department has released a position paper – a “joint Legislative Position Paper” that’s been adopted by the NC Sheriffs’ Association, the NC Conference of District Attorneys, the NC Association of Chiefs of Police and the NC State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) – urging the NC General Assembly to ban smokable hemp during the legislative session that begins next week.

The document is titled clearly enough: “Action Needed During January 14, 2020 Session – Smokable Hemp Ban.”

It states that sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys and the SBI wish to thank the General Assembly for working together with law enforcement on the matter up to this point, but that they regret that the ban “has not been enacted so far during the 2019 Session, leaving law enforcement and the public in a state of uncertainty.”

Smokable hemp, which comes from the same plant as marijuana but doesn’t deliver the notorious “high,” is used by some for various reasons. Some people smoke hemp to fight insomnia or get other claimed benefits of the plant – while others mix it with illegal THC-laden marijuana that does get you high.

According to the position paper backed by the law enforcement agencies, the General Assembly should, “immediately enact legislation containing the agreed upon language in the Farm Act Conference Report which, effective June 1, 2020, makes it clear that smokable hemp is unlawful to possess in North Carolina, except when grown or possessed by licensed farmers for use in CBD products or for sale out-of-state.”

The Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies claim it’s a “public safety” issue for the following reasons:

  • There’s no practical way for law enforcement officers to distinguish smokable hemp from actual marijuana because it’s essentially the same plant. The position paper states, “The plant looks and smells the same (unburned or burned), whether it is hemp or marijuana. The only difference is the level of THC contained in the plant.”
  • The law enforcement and justice officials also argue that currently there’s no valid field test that tells officers the difference between smokable hemp and marijuana – and narcotics dogs can’t tell the difference either since smokable hemp contains trace amounts of THC.
  • In addition, the state’s crime lab in Raleigh doesn’t have either the equipment or the personnel to determine the concentration of THC in a plant and thus it can’t distinguish between smokable hemp and marijuana.

According to the position paper, without enactment of legislation banning smokable hemp, the state will have “de facto legalization of marijuana.”

Many other states in the country don’t face any of these issues because those states have legalized both marijuana and smokable hemp.