NMSP considers test kits to help officers tell hemp and pot apart

New Mexico

Soon, licensed growers will be allowed to produce hemp in New Mexico and State Police are trying to get ahead of people who try to pass of recreational marijuana as hemp. 

“They cannot immediately tell the difference between hemp and marijuana,” said State Police Capt. Troy Weisler.

Weisler says the difference between marijuana and hemp is nearly invisible to the naked eye. 

“Statutorily, the only difference is the amount of THC,” State Police Capt. Troy Weisler said.

Come July, licensed hemp growers will be allowed to manufacture and transport their product in New Mexico, and State Police believe a different group may also try to benefit from the industry. 

“Marijuana smugglers turn around and say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know it was marijuana. I thought it was hemp. They use that as a defense when they encounter the cops,'” Capt. Weisler said. 

To cut that excuse short, State Police are considering buying a new kind of field testing kit.

“The traditional field testing kit just tests for the presence of TCH. So, it’s quite possible if you test for hemp that’s legal, 0.3 percent or less, that it would give a positive result to that,” said Weisler.

Instead of just testing for THC, like their current kits, the new devices can measure the amount of THC in the plant. 

“[It] turns one color if it’s more than 1 percent, turns a different color if it’s less than 1 percent THC, which still isn’t exactly the law is but it’s getting us in the ballpark,” said Weisler.

In New Mexico, hemp cannot have more than 0.3 percent of THC. Weisler says the testing kit could be helpful. 

“It’s something that’s evolving, that’s changed a lot recently and officers are going to need some tools to know what to do out in the field,” Capt. Weisler said. 

Right now, they’re focusing on training officers so they can catch smugglers and let legal growers go on their way. 

“We don’t want to interfere with the burgeoning new, legal hemp industry in any way,” Capt. Weisler added. 

Under the law, people who are licensed Hemp growers will also have to carry paperwork they can show officers if they are stopped. 

Hemp manufacturing becomes officially legal when the law goes into effect this July. State Police will not make a final decision about the field testing kits until a new chief is named. 

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