DEA needs help separating marijuana from hemp

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The agency charged with keeping drugs out of the country can’t distinguish between the two plants

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) needs some help. It is having a hard time telling the difference between hemp and marijuana and hopes that someone has a tool or a device that can make its agents’ job a little easier.

Last week, the DEA published a notice on its website looking for a marijuana/hemp field kit. It adds that the 2018 Farm Bill, which has legalized industrial hemp production, has been the catalyst behind the search for the device in order to distinguish between federally legal hemp and illegal marijuana.

According to the notice, the device “must provide specificity to distinguish between hemp and marijuana.” Additionally, the notice states, “It must be portable and rugged enough to be used in non-laboratory environments or ambient conditions. All products shall be the most current and up-to-date model/revision(s) available at the time of delivery. Anticipated maximum quantities to be purchased will be based on evaluation results and agency need.”

According to the DEA, “Any Cannabis sativa L. plant material with a THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] concentration above 0.3 percent is considered marijuana (AKA marihuana) and is still federally controlled.”

Time is running out for entities to submit their devices. The DEA request period ends on March 15.

The device may seem unnecessary to most marijuana enthusiasts. Hemp and marijuana have distinctive features that allow the two to be distinguished with nothing more than the senses. Marijuana has broad leaves and dense buds, while hemp has skinny leaves that are concentrated toward the top of the plant. Marijuana looks like a fat bush, while hemp is skinnier and taller and looks like a weed. A $0.25 photo printed on a home color printer would most likely be just as beneficial as the DEA’s device.


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