Friday, September 6, 2019
The title of this post is the headline of this new Columbus Dispatch commentary authored by Benton Bodamer, who is a member of the law firm Dickinson Wright and teaches a Cannabiz course here at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Here are excerpts from the piece:
Regulators and law enforcement have a wildly impractical task in attempting to regulate companies, plants and products using a distinguishing factor (hemp vs. marijuana) that is both arbitrary and mutable. There are no federal guidelines on how dry cannabis must be to test for THC, nor guidelines for the stage of cultivation or processing at which testing should occur. As cannabis dries, the THC content increases and that process can continue after harvest and testing. This means that temperature changes during transportation could turn “hemp” into “marijuana” unless we have a federally standardized testing and transportation procedure and methodology, which we do not.
CBD and THC can be extracted from both federally noncompliant marijuana and federally legal hemp. If it is the exact same substance at the molecular level, should we really care?
In the face of federal illegality, draconian tax burdens, Wild West banking and competition from black market illegal operations, the state-compliant cannabis industry in America has managed to build a base of sophisticated investors, informed customers, medical professionals and even Republican supporters (gasp!), cultivating a promising industry that has generated millions of tax dollars and thousands of jobs. This industry persists in 33 states (and growing) because the vast majority of the country knows that the federal law is wrong and largely unenforced....
When laws are irrational we lose faith in civil institutions. The cannabis industry is filled with “efficient illegality,” meaning noncompliance meets with little risk of federal enforcement against state-compliant businesses. F ederal prosecutorial dollars for action against state-compliant cannabis businesses are throttled through federal legislative restraints and 33 states have now decided that they would rather generate tax dollars from cannabis than spend tax revenue persecuting its nonthreatening uses. Continuing the charade of federal illegality is doing far more harm to public perception in the value of laws and law enforcement than full-scale legalization with sensible federal, state, and local regulation would do.
There’s a simple answer to the confusion over “hemp” and “marijuana,” and it’s one that happens to reflect popular opinion. It’s time to fully legalize the cannabis plant and the cannabinoids extracted from it and build a data-driven industry from the existing state-sanctioned marketplaces. The sooner we stop pretending that century-old uninformed hysteria constitutes a sound public health policy, the sooner we can heal and grow (cannabis) together.