Legalized Hemp Would Overwhelm State Drug Labs, Narcotics Officers’ Association Chief Says

The Kentucky Narcotic Officers’ Association’s director says his organization is opposed to the legalization of industrial hemp because of concerns that hemp may overwhelm labs used to differentiate the plant from its cousin, marijuana.

“Every time we find somebody with marijuana, they’re going to say, ‘Oh, no—that’s hemp,’” said Tommy Loving, the association’s director. “So it’ll have to go for a lab test. So the other problem there is that we’re going to overwhelm the state police lab system, which is already a busy place to start with.”

Loving concedes that the effort to allow the growing of the crop in Kentucky has growing momentum, but he says that won’t stop law enforcement agencies from speaking out on the issue.

Loving says it would be too difficult to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana, but supporters of hemp legalization say anyone can learn to distinguish the crop from marijuana. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is leading the efforts at the state level to legalize industrial hemp, while U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, and and U.S. Reps. John Yarmuth and Thomas Massie have voiced their support for changing federal laws regarding the crop.

Loving said he fears marijuana growers will plant their crops next to hemp, making it difficult for law enforcement to distinguish between the two. Some agriculture experts say planting the two crops together would destroy the potency of the marijuana over time, but Loving said that wouldn’t deter those looking to hide from law enforcement.

“If you plant marijuana with hemp surrounding it, for instance, in one growing season, you’re not going to diminish that much of the THC content in the marijuana,” he said. “So your marijuana crop is still going to be a sellable commodity.”

The chairman of the Kentucky Senate agriculture committee said he intends to bring a bill to legalize hemp up for a vote.

Comer has said Kentucky farmers and businesses would benefit economically from legalizing the crop.

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