Police investigating sale of ‘legal’ pot – B’ville stores stocking product very near to cannabis

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Batesville law enforcement officials this week began an investigation into the sale of THCa, a product so similar to medical cannabis that police can’t positively discern between the two, in smoke shops around the city.

The product only recently hit the shelves in Batesville, but some parents have already begun to raise alarms. Deputy Police Chief Barry Thompson confirmed Tuesday that department investigators have purchased THCa from several stores and are working with the District Attorney’s office to determine whether the products are indeed legal .

“When the public voice concerns it’s our job to get right on it, and this is something that affects our young people,” Thompson said. “Law enforcement has been following this kind of thing for years and it seems like as soon as we get something taken off the shelves, something pops back up.”

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The difference in the THCa products in question and legally purchased cannabis is essentially a legal loophole created by the federal government. The details of legal and illegal lies in the strength and potency, and applies the label of hemp to the THCa strain.

District Attorney Jay Hale, like Thompson, said the speed with which new products show up in retail stores is frustrating to prosecutors as well. His office will have the THCa products purchased in Batesville sent to a testing laboratory.

“We will know more when we see the test results, but anything that is not properly tested and potentially dangerous has no place on the streets of Batesville,” Hale said. “We take this very seriously.”

Further complicating the police’s ability to keep illegal marijuana off the streets and away from the youngest of the population is the fact that THCa purchased at local retail stores comes with a sales receipt, like any other goods or services.

How will police determine if a person found with what appears to be marijuana claims the product is actually THCa and can produce a sales receipt for a legal purchase?

“That’s one of the questions we are going to find out, and how are we going to deal with that situation legally,” Thompson said. “I know we have concerned citizens and parents and they can know we are working on this right now.”

In 2018, Congress passed a farm bill that allowed for the cultivation and production of hemp and related products. Hemp comes from the same plant as cannabis but does not contain intoxicating levels of THC until now.

Creative farmers have figured out a way to grow hemp such that it contains dangerous levels of intoxicating substances that are being marketed to children with products like “Nerd Rope” in stores with names like “Pokeman” and “Candy Shop Cannabis”. 

This loophole in the federal legislation is allowing these products to be sold all throughout the country. Recent testing has found that some products being sold as hemp contain as much as 80 percent THC – extremely high and dangerous levels. 

House Bill 1676 would also require intoxicating hemp to only be sold in medical cannabis establishments, which would reduce the locations where it can be sold from nearly 2000 to approximately 150 existing medical facilities – effectively preventing pseudo pot shops from operating as smoke shops.