Despite passage of both the 2018 Farm Bill and the recent USDA interim rules confirming the permissibility of the growth, possession, and interstate shipment of industrial hemp, local law enforcement continues to interfere with the legitimate business practices of the hemp industry.
On December 23, 2019, police from Wellford, South Carolina seized 183 pounds of what they allege is marijuana. However, the seized product is actually hemp according to a Texas industrial hemp distributor who claims to have purchased the hemp from a North Carolina hemp farm, Bio Lab Global. Currently no charges have been filed against the drivers that were stopped but Wellford police have confiscated the hemp awaiting lab testing by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).
Bio Lab Global, where the hemp reportedly originated is a licensed processor, distributor, and cultivator of hemp under the North Carolina Industrial Hemp Pilot Program which meets the criteria established by federal guidelines. The USDA interim rules passed in November 2019 expressly prohibits states from interfering with the interstate transport of lawfully grown hemp.
To the extent that the confiscated product is indeed industrial hemp and not marijuana, the Wellford South Carolina police department action highlights the continuing legal problems facing the hemp industry even after the promulgation of federal statute and agency rulemaking. The incident is not unlike a November arrest by the New York Police Department when 106 pounds of hemp was intercepted in route from a Vermont farm to a retail CBD store. In that case NYPD posted photos on social medial of the arresting officers posing with the seized product which turned out to be legal hemp, resulting in the dismissal of the felony drug charges by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.
Unilateral action by local law enforcement contradictory to federal law is frustrating but not surprising due to the quickly evolving hemp laws and difficulty by police distinguishing between hemp and marijuana. Dysart Willis is a criminal defense firm that also represents companies in the hemp industry. If you have questions or require assistance, contact our experienced attorneys for a complementary consultation.