By John Pacenti
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg puts police on notice: Marijuana arrests are going to be tough now that hemp is legal in Florida.
To get the state on the forefront of a burgeoning industry, legislators acting with unusual bipartisan support unwittingly took away a much-used tool from law enforcement.
The law went into effect July 1, more than two years after voters approved medical marijuana in Florida.
“We will not be able to prosecute any marijuana or THC oil cases without a test from an accredited lab indicating that the THC content is over .3 percent,” the memo says.
He has told his deputies to stop making marijuana arrests. And a memo from his state attorney, Bruce Colton, says until labs are set up to distinguish between hemp and pot, “officers should not make a probable cause arrest for a cannabis-related offense.”
The drug-sniffing K9s ‒ meticulously and expensively trained to detect the slightest odor of marijuana ‒ won’t be able to distinguish the old-school drug from the new.
“The odor of marijuana ‒ by itself ‒ is no longer probable cause for a search,” the state attorney’s email says. “This is true whether the odor is detected by an officer, or by a dog.”
And Florida isn’t the only state grappling with these changes.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation wrote to that state’s Legislature expressing concerns on making arrests for possession.
“The inability for law enforcement to distinguish between hemp and marijuana is problematic in all marijuana prosecutions, from small amounts to trafficking amounts of plant material,” the group told lawmakers.