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New state legal pot law jeopardizes prosecutions

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Prosecutors and crime lab scientists say a little-noticed provision in Washington's new legal marijuana law has jeopardized their ability to go after any pot crimes at all, and they're calling for an immediate fix in the Legislature.

The problem stems from a part of the law meant to distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp, which is grown for its fiber. The law defines marijuana as having more than 0.3 percent of a certain intoxicating compound, called delta-9 THC.

Scientists with the state crime lab say that often, even potent marijuana can have less than 0.3 percent — it's only when heated or burned that another compound turns into delta-9 THC.

That means that if people get caught with more than an ounce of marijuana, or if police bust illicit grow operations, prosecutors might not be able to prove the plants or material seized meets the definition of marijuana.

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