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Cops want legal clarity to help search and seizure

The short answer as we all know is that hemp doesn’t have THC and can’t get you high. But the police have a point. Cannabis and hemp look exactly the same and this is potentially problematic for law enforcement officials as one will be legal and the other won’t, well, may be. 

The South African Police have raised concerns about the proposed partial legalization of cannabis in a presentation to the parliamentary committee considering cannabis legalization.  Their concerns are reflected in the dilemma faced by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is being sued by a Wyoming cannabis company for mistakingly destroying its legal hemp operation.  

How will the law work?

In terms of the law, South Africa will allow licensed cultivation of cannabis for export, people to grow and smoke their own and have access to CBD products. The government wants to encourage hemp farming to replace illegal cannabis cultivation. It says it will be fine to exchange cannabis in public as long as no money changes hands. It wants to expunge previous cannabis convictions. There are already a proliferation of ‘private dagga clubs’ which appear to circumvent the law by growing cannabis for ‘members only’ and ‘smoking lounges’ popping up in the metros.

The challenge for the police will be how to enforce new laws that are riddled with loopholes and contradictions. The greyer the area is between legality and illegality, the harder the job for the police.  They’ve asked Parliament to come up with clean, unambigious legislation that provides the legal system with clarity. And also advice for the police as to how to tell the difference between cannabis and hemp.

USA Case Study

The problem has financial consequences. Ask the feds in California. A Wyoming hemp company is suing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and police for allegedly destroying more than $3 million worth of hemp they mistook for marijuana.

Agro Dynamics LLC filed a claim for unspecified damages in San Diego, California on 27 October 2020, that local and federal officers raided the company’s facilities in September 2019 after an aerial inspection showed what they believed to be a marijuana field. Officers didn’t bother checking to see if the area was a registered hemp grow, Agro Dynamics argues.

“Upon (police) arrival on the premises, a tenant in possession advised the officers that there was a legal registration issuance from the County of San Diego for the hemp growing on the premises. Law enforcement disregarded this information and continued to seize and destroy all plants that appeared to be marijuana,” the lawsuit alleges. The plants police destroyed were below the legal limit of 0.3% THC, according to court documents.

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