New Drug Testing Tech Will Help Virginia Cops Distinguish Hemp From Weed
The state has purchased more than 16,000 new drug test kits that are capable of differentiating the two types of cannabis.
Published on December 4, 2019

Photo via the VA Department of Forensic Science

Police officers across the Commonwealth of Virginia will soon have a new tool at their disposal when it comes to carrying out cannabis arrests. Thanks to complications in distinguishing illicit marijuana from newly legal hemp, the state has purchased more than 16,000 new drug tests capable of differentiating the two types of cannabis.

Since President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill — which legalized the growth, extraction, and distribution of industrial hemp products containing less than 0.3% THC — CBD-rich oils, tinctures, and flower have become omnipresent throughout the nation. But in addition to creating a robust new sector of the cannabis market, hemp legalization has caused huge headaches for police departments around the country. Generally, cops have been ill-equipped to differentiate between bags of full-strength weed and its non-psychoactive cousin.

That’s where the Virginia Department of Forensic Science comes in. According to the Richmond-Times Dispatch, the statewide agency used a $97,500 grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to purchase 16,150 new drug testing field kits that will be distributed to police departments across the Commonwealth. The tech, called 4-AP, will use a color-changing liquid solution to determine whether a plant sample contains larger quantities of either CBD or THC. If the test sample turns the liquid blue, officers are alerted that the material contains more THC than CBD and is most likely illegal. If the test turns up pink, the sample contains more CBD than THC, and would not be considered a crime

The 4-AP test will not be used by itself to confirm specific cannabinoid percentages, but will instead give officers a broad indication of whether the flower in question is likely THC-rich weed or hemp-derived CBD. But in the case of CBD-dominant flower that may contain more THC than legally allowed, descriptions of the field test indicate that those samples would still likely pass as hemp.

Virginia Department of Forensic Science officials did not specify when the field tests will start being used by local police departments, but the agency released an informational video about the new tech, which you can watch below. 

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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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