In Virginia, a man almost landed in jail for legally purchasing and possessing hemp flowers. Fortunately for him, it eventually came to light that state labs cannot actually tell the difference between legal hemp products—which contain almost exclusively CBD—and regular cannabis products—which are heavy in high-inducing THC.
More broadly, this case is one of the numerous similar cases that highlight the problems with drug law enforcement, especially as it relates to the use of field drug tests.
Getting Busted for Legal CBD
The incident began recently when a man named Robert Mason was traveling with his sister. The two had spent the day at an amusement park. At some point while traveling, they stopped at a store in Charlottesville that sells CBD products. There, Mason bought some legal hemp flowers.
Later that day, while driving back home, Mason and his sister were pulled over speeding. Things quickly escalated. The cop who pulled them over said he smelled cannabis.
At that point, Mason said he was fully cooperative. He gave the cop everything he head, including the CBD hemp flowers, a grinder, a bowl, and the receipt showing that the CBD flowers were a legal purchase.
Despite all that, the cop insisted Mason was breaking the law. He did a field test on the bud. And although the flowers reportedly contained only 0.28 percent THC—below the legal 0.3 percent limit for CBD products—the field test came back positive for pot.
As a result, the cop gave Mason a ticket for possession of marijuana. Later on, the case went to court, with the possibility of jail time.
Fortunately for Mason, by the time he finally ended up in court, it became clear that the cop’s field test was completely unreliable. As reported by local news source NBC 12, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science stated that it cannot actually figure out how much THC is in a substance.
Measuring THC is critical in this type of case. That’s because, under the new rules established by the federal Farm Bill of 2018, hemp products with less than 0.3 percent THC are no longer banned substances.
In the absence of a clear indicator of THC levels in Mason’s flowers, the judge hearing the case decided to drop all charges.
Field Drug Tests Are a Big Problem
Mason’s case illustrates some of the big problems with field drug tests. In general, these tests are incredibly inaccurate. They often fail to differentiate between illegal drugs and other legal substances. Yet despite the clumsiness of these tests, cops around the country continue to use them and make decisions based on them.
For example, a homeless man in Oklahoma was recently arrested on cocaine charges that ended up being completely false. The arresting officer based the arrest on a field test conducted after a white powder was discovered in the man’s backpack.
Weeks later, more accurate testing showed that the powder was not cocaine. It was actually powdered milk that the man had gotten from a food pantry. Meanwhile, the man spent several weeks locked up in the county jail.