With Marijuana charges there are a broad range or areas to attack. Currently, Marijuana issues are being put before Legislatures across the country and whether or not to Legalize Marijuana is a common question. However, until legalization happens, Marijuana cases present interesting challenges when it comes to the Drug itself. One of the more recent areas is the use of Forensics in Challenging Marijuana cases. With an ever growing number of issues when it comes to challenging cases, whether it be prosecutorial misconduct, failings of defense attorneys to properly represent clients, various flaw in eyewitness identification, police lineups which are extremely biased, false confessions, and then as we have here, the barrage of issues found in crime laboratories. Recently, media outlets across the United States, and most importantly, in North Carolina, the question remains that if there are issues with DNA at these laboratories which lead to innocence, is it possible to use forensics to determine that the alleged Marijuana wasn’t Marijuana after all?
Marijuana charges lead to convictions in a vast majority of cases in District and Superior Courts across North Carolina, including Greensboro, High Point & Asheboro. This is evident by statutes being developed to benefit Defendants charged with Marijuana crimes, such as NCGS 90-96, which allow for those charged to have the opportunity to have their Marijuana charges dismissed upon completion of a Marijuana and Drug Diversion Program. But an area we are continuing to look at is the area of Forensics when it comes to challenging Marijuana cases. Of course there is the Stop, Search & Seizure when it comes to Drug cases, but after these things Forensics could play an ever-important role when it comes to Marijuana and Drug Defense.
Marijuana’s technical name is CANNABIS SATIVA, and Marijuana plants provide a number identification issues for Forensic Laboratories in North Carolina and throughout the United States. One of the most common tests done in forensic drug laboratories is on Marijuana, including both chopped versions and full plants. Forensic labs utilize a 1972 protocol in order to identify Marijuana, which uses microscopic analysis as well as a chemical spot test. Their protocol established that with Marijuana we are looking for a plant, which CREATES SEEDS, has FLOWERS, is of a certain SUBCLASS SPECIES, and has some or all of the FEATURES of ELMS, NETTLES and HEMPS.
With Marijuana, typically analysts are looking at a form of the Marijuana Plant which is crushed and no longer retains the identifying features of Marijuana. Most Law Enforcement Officials when they seize crushed plants, that they think is Marijuana, then attempt a field examination to determine whether said Plant is a Marijuana Plant. Then they determine whether the plant has seeds, then flowers, then the variety, but the reality is Law Enforcement Officers are not Botanists and they are unable to determine whether a Plant is in fact Marijuana. And to make determinations from a crushed down plant-like material is for all intents and purposes, impossible.
Studies have shown that if a Microscope were to analyze a Marijuana leaf, it would show that Marijuana leaves have a bear-claw like structure which appear on top of the Marijuana leaf. But merely eyeing crushed Marijuana will never reveal this property. The subclass which Marijuana falls under, is called dicotyledons, and it has over 31,000 different species, only of one which is Marijuana. Scientists studying the different species have determined that by the studying this subclass, only one subclass has the properties of Marijuana, and that’s Marijuana. The test relied upon by Legislatures across the country and in North Carolina, only tested 600 of those 31,000 to determine what differentiated Marijuana from other plants. The dilemma is that that still leaves over 30,000 species of plants which could have the same characteristics as Marijuana. What does all this mean? This means when a North Carolina state Laboratory is testing for Marijuana it could show a false positive for one of the other 30,000 species which have never been tested.
One of the current tests for Marijuana, is done by spraying TLC with Fast Blue B Salt and the response shows whether there is positive evidence that Marijuana is present. However, current testing is based on a method which only used a small number of plants as the sample by which to differentiate Marijuana from other plants. The current question, as Defense Lawyers and Defendants which were left with is whether or not there truly is an effective testing procedure to determine whether a plant is in fact Marijuana.
Currently, the procedure being used has not differentiated Marijuana from over 30,000 different species of plants. Meaning, what a test would show as Marijuana may very well be testing as positive for Marijuana when in fact it’s one of 30,000 other species of plants. This all goes to show that Marijuana testing done in North Carolina and the United States has an incredibly high chance of giving a false-positive result for Marijuana when it in fact is another species of plant. Therefore, those charged with Marijuana crimes in North Carolina, especially Greensboro, High Point & Asheboro, may be charged with Possessing a Substance, which has tested positive for Marijuana, but could actually be one of 30,000 other plants…meaning it is impossible based on current testing standards to determine whether someone charged with Possession of Marijuana in fact was ever in Possession of Marijuana and not some other species of plant.
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