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Can Drug-Sniffing Dogs Tell the Difference Between Marijuana and Hemp?

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The situation that still permits the differentiation between marijuana and hemp is due to the illegal status that marijuana still has on a federal level. These problems may not pose much of a problem in states where marijuana use is considered legal for medical and recreational use. However, in states where the use of cannabis is yet to be made legal, there is still a need to differentiate between the two. Much of the common ways that law enforcement authorities use in trying to identify and distinguish these two natural products can easily be faulted. This is because it is very hard for humans to differentiate physically between marijuana and hemp. This situation has made it very hard for many police officers to search persons and their properties without proper identification of the supposed contraband product the person is supposedly in possession of.

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How effective are drug sniffing dogs?

One of the ways that law enforcement agencies have sought to combat contraband drug products is through the use of drug-sniffing dogs. The effectiveness of these dogs largely plays on the fact that the nose and ability of these dogs to perceive scents and smells are highly advanced and accurate. This makes it possible for these dogs to be trained to be able to identify the scents of common drugs of abuse. These drugs have been of immense benefit for may state police departments as they aid help in ensuring the efficiency of their job. The problem with drug-sniffing dogs occurs when it comes to marijuana and hemp as it is impossible for the dogs to differentiate between marijuana and hemp. This makes a very controversial case for many prosecutors to be able to affirm probable cause for searches given the provisions that are provided by the Fourth Amendment of the constitution.

What are the differences between marijuana and hemp?

Differentiating between marijuana and hemp is sure to be very hard because they are both similar visually and have the smell. This has to be expected because both marijuana and hemp hail from the same cannabis plant. A quick differentiation between the three terms will probably shed enough light on their differences and similarities.

 Cannabis refers to the botanical name of the marijuana plant which is why the active compounds in the parent plant are called cannabinoids. Marijuana is the name given to the natural product while hemp is a part of the cannabis plant which contains less than 0.3% of THC. Hemp is largely grown in the cannabis plant to maximize the size of the plant. it is commonly used to make ropes, paper, and textiles. Marijuana on the other hand contains about 30% of THC which largely indicates the major difference between the two. This makes it hard to separate them by visual identification methods.

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The THC concentration of hemp makes it legal on the federal level, unlike marijuana. Hemp contains the same cannabinoids as marijuana which accounts for its effect however to a lesser degree. This is why it doesn’t provide the same kind of effects and accounts for the legality of hemp on a federal level. The lack of intoxicating properties in hemp unlike marijuana which gives a euphoric feeling due to its concentration of THC is the reason why marijuana is still considered illegal in many regions. The differentiation between both products is already obsolete in states where cannabis is legal and with the growing acceptance of cannabis in more states for medical and recreational use, they are bound to fade away soon.

Problems of drug sniffing dogs

The problems with drug-sniffing dogs begins when extensive drug searches are conducted on the basis of probable cause thanks to the dogs. Their failure to be able to differentiate between hemp that is legal and cannabis that is illegal in some states is a huge problem.

The dogs are trained to act the same way when they perceive the contraband drugs, they are trained to search for such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. This makes it very hard to justify what the dogs identify as they will act the same way when they identify legal hemp and heroin. Once this cannot be sorted, it provides a very big issue for the justification of the use of these dogs in affirming probable cause which is needed for the search of persons and their possessions. 

The Ohio Highway Patrol had to suspend marijuana training for drugs due to this sort of complication that arises with prosecutors. The problems are made more problematic because a good number of the people of Ohio have medications for medical marijuana. The legalization of cannabis in different states such as Colorado and Oregon have already ensured that the training of the dogs for marijuana is stopped. The New York state police department has also followed suit in stopping this course of training which is expected to be in anticipation of the expected decriminalization of cannabis in the region. The failure of the dogs to be able to identify and distinguish between marijuana and hemp already makes for a problematic day for prosecutors.

The Fourth Amendment of the constitution offers a right that protects the people and their possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures. This along with the inability of the dogs to distinguish between hemp and marijuana has necessitated the retrenchment of the dogs from service. This is because the dogs cannot unlearn what they have learned and will still react the same way. Many persons can then be on the receiving end of unreasonable searches which are based on the problems of differentiation of drugs for the drug-sniffing drugs.

Bottom line

The ultimate goal is first that the federal stance of marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic drug changes. The ripple effect of this change is bound to affect things such as the general differentiation of hemp and marijuana. Once marijuana is legalized, there will be no need for drug-sniffing drugs to be trained to search for marijuana, and so on. This will ensure that more people can easily use marijuana for its wide range of medicinal and recreational benefits without the fear of being harrassed by the police.

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