Marijuana or hemp? Manufacturers snagged by Farm Bill confusion

Cannabis entrepreneurs say they’re facing jail time and hefty legal fees because of the plant’s complicated biology, with the vaunted 2018 Farm Bill only muddling the picture for interstate commerce.

A pair of cases in Idaho and Oklahoma raised questions about how state and local law enforcement are supposed to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana.

Since the Farm Bill passed and President Donald Trump signed hemp legalization into law:

  • Four men working for a hemp-transportation company, Patriot Shield National Transport, were stopped in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, for running a red light. All four were charged with drug crimes for allegedly carrying roughly 18,000 pounds of Kentucky cannabis destined for Panacea Life Sciences, a CBD manufacturer in Louisville, Colorado. The men said they were carrying legal hemp; federal drug authorities say the plants had too much THC to be considered hemp and not marijuana.
  •  An Oregon truck driver was arrested in Boise, Idaho, for carrying roughly 6,700 pounds of cannabis from Oregon to Big Sky Scientific, a CBD manufacturer in Aurora, Colorado.

The cases suggest that local and state law enforcement don’t understand that interstate commerce is now legal for hemp.

“We were very forthcoming with the cops,” said Tyler Dickinson, co-owner of Patriot Shield, with headquarters in Denver and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

“We told them, ‘We’re hauling hemp, and here’s our paperwork.’ It was all there, certified by the state of Kentucky.”

In the Idaho case, Big Sky Scientific is suing Idaho State Police over the seizure.

“It’s a lawful crop, akin to oranges or potatoes or cotton,” Elijah Watkins, Big Sky’s lawyer, told Hemp Industry Daily.

The cases also raise an uncomfortable prospect for the booming CBD industry: states have different THC testing methods – so a plant that tests at or below 0.3% THC in one state can violate the THC limit in another.

“We’ve got to get national testing standards worked out,” Dickinson said.

The high-profile hemp seizures have the booming CBD industry wondering how much they can trust the Farm Bill’s guarantee that “no state or Indian tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products.”

In the Idaho case, for example, a Big Sky official said the company will be hurt even if the hemp is released and Idaho concedes the commerce was legal, because supply-chain disruptions can hurt any new business.

“They’re paying attorney’s fees for something that was settled in federal law,” Watkins said. “They have contracts to fulfill. This is a burgeoning market.”

Patriot Shield’s Dickinson said its hemp-shipping business has gone ice cold while folks await an Oklahoma resolution.

“Any local law enforcement can mess with any hemp shipment and delay it until the hemp is destroyed,” he noted.

6 comments on “Marijuana or hemp? Manufacturers snagged by Farm Bill confusion
  1. Bob on

    Question:. What amount of THC was measured by law enforcement in these two instances?

    Hemp could and very likely is being used as a cover to transport high THC marijuana.

    Reply
    • Mel on

      The 2014 Farm Bill (7 USC sec. 7606) states that Industrial Hemp means the plant cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3%, on a dry weight basis.

      The 2014 Farm Bill put the regulatory onus on the respective states’ pilot programs to ensure compliance with its definition off “Industrial Hemp.” Most state regulations under their respective pilot programs, which are the authorized regulatory bodies under the 2014 Farm Bill, mimics the Federal law and require that crops be tested and meet a standard of under 0.3% Delta-9 THC. The regulatory bodies test the crops to ensure they meet that standard before authorizing the harvesting of the crop. Between the time of testing and harvesting, there may be a variance of the D-9 content upward. The growers’ compliance with those States’ pilot program regulations earns them a Certificate of Compliance (or comparable document) which allows them to harvest the crop and identifies that the grower has operated under the state’s pilot program permit regulations.

      Bob, you’re talking about hemp being used to cover up “high THC marijuana;” there’s two parts to this – whether “Industrial Hemp” which has complied with the states PP regulations to earn that Cert. of Compliance, or whether it’s just plain old marijuana. “Industrial Hemp” that is compliant may very well be higher than 0.3% when harvested, but that does not convert it to THC/Marijuana merely by virtue of the over 0.3%, because (1) the feds have identified that material grown under a state’s PP program is “exempt” from the controlled substances law, 7 USC 7706, and the states have identified regulatory conditions for the harvesting of that crop which have, ostensibly, been complied with. It does not remove it from the exemption from controlled substance law, nor does it convert their product to THC/marijuana – which is what law enforcement is asserting when they seize this product.

      It seems that law enforcement in these articulated matters have ignored the plain language of the federal law. Whether they are ignoring their own state law is another question, which I am ill-positioned to answer.

      Reply
  2. Jeff on

    I just read a hemp bill introduced in the Texas lege. and the way it reads, you have to get a special license to transport hemp from field and every step to retailer.

    Reply
  3. Dawn Marie Steenstra on

    Sincerely, The Farm Bill DOES articulate all of this transporting across the country as LEGAL. All but 3 states have medical cannabis laws on the books as well. If this transporting of said shipments have the legal paperwork and license to do so, they should be released to complete their job. Every state has identification and paperwork required for all transports. If the paperwork relates testing and amount of product enclosed within a shipment, let these law abiding citizens go.

    The importing of hemp food products was settled in the HIA vs the DEA, this is where the definition of hemp products was decided. Hemp products are classified as <=.3% THC by dry weight. The Farm Bill included the entire plant in their definition.

    https://www.votehemp.com/resources/hemp-legal-cases/dea-hemp-food-rules-challenge/

    Reply

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