Pot or hemp? NYPD bust highlights growing drug confusion

The war on drugs has sparked growing confusion nationwide over law enforcement mix-ups between illegal marijuana and legal hemp.

New York City police boasted on social media this week about a significant drug bust: 106 pounds of green plants that cops thought sure seemed like marijuana, as The Associated Press reported.

The department tweeted: “Officers Greenidge and Ganshaw from the @NYPD75Pct used precision policing and relentless follow-up, along with a great working relationship with @FedEx and other local law enforcement officials, to confiscate 106 pounds of marijuana that was destined for our city streets.”

The man who had the plants said they were weed, but rather, they were hemp.

As the AP noted, hemp often has tested positive for a permissible, trace amount of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in cannabis causing people to get high.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is also found in marijuana but does not have an intoxicating effect. Some users have said it would provide them with pain and anxiety relief.

The Nov. 2 Brooklyn bust landed Ronen Levy, who has run his own CBD business catering to pets, in handcuffs; the arrest stemmed from a tip from a FedEx worker who suspected the plants in a delivery were marijuana, New York City police said.

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Levy pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of felony criminal possession of marijuana. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on Nov. 19.

His brother, shop owner Oren Levy, said the mix-up has freaked his family. “They treated him like a drug dealer,” Oren Levy said. “He’s never been to jail in his whole life. He still hasn’t slept. He’s paranoid.”

“We got information about a large package of drugs. We got it in here. We field tested it as marijuana, called the individual in. He was placed under arrest,” said NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan. “It is currently at the lab at this point to make a final determination, was it hemp?” Monahan said. “The individual had no bill of lading justifying its delivery.”

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The police department drew attention to the bust by posting pictures on its official Facebook and Twitter accounts showing the cops in a room full of the seized plants.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.