Harrison County Considering In House Marijuana Testing - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Harrison County Considering In House Marijuana Testing

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CLARKSBURG -

While marijuana seems like a unique and recognizable smell, it is not enough to go by in the court of law.

"Whether it be marijuana, crack cocaine, heroin, you have to validate the fact that it is marijuana and you have to send it to a lab to do so," said Harrison County Sheriff Albert Marano.

Law enforcement agencies across the state rely on the West Virginia State Police Lab in Charleston to verify substances like marijuana, heroin, and other mind-altering drugs.

"You send it off to the state police lab. It may take 90 days or even more than that," said Ron Watson, Harrison County Commission president.

It could take months before a suspect gets his or her day in court. This is part of why the county is considering the Field Investigation Drug Officer Program through Glenville Sate College.

"We're hoping that if we can do it in house, it would make the turn around time a little quicker, which would therefore, hopefully, ease the back log in the court system as well, because they are waiting from the results from the lab," Marano said.

The county commission pays nearly $150,000 every month for regional jail bills. Nearly 20 percent of that goes toward marijuana-related offenders.

"Instead of keeping them in jail for two to three days or even longer than that before they can be arraigned, this way, we can bring it to the court's attention very quickly," Watson said.

The course runs about $6,000 per trainee. Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Shaffer said the county easily spends that in testing and travel costs for marijuana related investigations.

While it would save the county money both at the regional jail and investigating levels, it may not be money well spent.

"It would be a legitimate and helpful program, provided it passes all the tests and the courts allow it for evidence and recognize it as a standard test," Marano said.

Shaffer said he's confident it will pass, but he will be meeting with judges and checking with local, state, and federal law to make sure.

"I'm fairly confident it will be accepted because it would probably be the same process that the lab currently uses," Shaffer said.

Shaffer said he expects to give the county commission his opinion at Thursday's regularly scheduled meeting.