New Drug Testing Tech Will Help Cops Distinguish Weed From Hemp
For CBD-lovers and hemp entrepreneurs, the new testing kits could be a lifesaver if you're confronted by the police.
Published on July 23, 2019

When the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law last year, the hemp industry rejoiced. No longer tied to its THC-heavy cousin, the non-psychoactive industrial plant is now legal to grow across the country. But with so many CBD products now ubiquitous, police are running into problems distinguishing between legal hemp and illegal weed. That’s where the Swiss come in.

According to a new report from NBC Washington, a number of stateside police departments are experimenting with a new drug testing kit produced and developed by Swiss scientist. The tech could soon be used to make on-the-spot determinations regarding if a sample is hemp with high CBD, or cannabis with plenty of THC. 

The tests — which look and perform similar to the current THC testing kits used by American police — were designed and implemented after Switzerland legalized cannabis with 1% THC or less in 2011. If the test comes in contact with a substance high in THC, the chemical solution will turn blue, and if the substance is high in CBD, the solution will turn purplish-pink. Current cannabis tests used by US police only turn colors when THC is present. 

"With the way laws are changing in each state, this could blow up probably overnight," John Waldheim, the sole US distributor of the Swiss testing kits, told NBC

Since the Farm Bill was passed last year, a number of police departments across Texas and Florida have changed their cannabis arrest policies to address the hemp-blindness of their current testing kits. Without the ability to tell the difference between hemp and weed, police in Miami have gone as far as to stop using the smell of cannabis as probable cause for property searches. Accordingly, Waldheim says that police departments across Florida alone have placed more than 25,000 orders for the Swiss cannabis testing kits.

When it comes to cannabis drug testing in the wake of legalization, most efforts have focused on roadside tests to determine whether a cannabis user is actually intoxicated when they are confronted by police. Because cannabinoids remain in the system for up to a month after last use, determining whether a driver is high at the time of a stop is nearly impossible without more advanced breathalyzer tests. Because the Swiss tests are only able to determine the presence of THC in a substance and not a person, the new kits will not be useful for roadside purposes in cannabis legal states.

For CBD-lovers and industry insiders who like to carry legal hemp, though, the new testing kits could be a lifesaver when proving to police officers that a CBD vape, oil, or bud is legit, and not just a claim to elude arrest. But while a number of US police agencies are already ordering the tests to research their efficacy, no stateside department has authorized the field use of the Swiss tests quite yet.

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Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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