Get wise: How law firms help the cannabis industry understand industrial hemp’s new legal

The cannabis industry is still fighting for the long road ahead. Despite the rallying of 33 states for The SAFE Banking Act, and regardless of the 2018 Farm Bill’s statute legalizing the production and shipment of industrial hemp, the United States is still slow to accept the cannabis industry as legitimate. One of the most difficult hurdles lately has been transportation.

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Importing and exporting hemp is a sticky morass of legal complications. Differences in the definitions and detection of marijuana and hemp plants are slowing down border patrol agencies and police departments across the country. Grandmothers are being arrested for CBD in Florida, and shipments of hemp have been confiscated at airports in Kentucky, Idaho, and Colorado.

What’s happening to industrial hemp shipments in the United States?

Last summer, Innovative Nutraceuticals sued the US government for repeatedly seizing their hemp imports from Spain. Daniel Shortt with The Cannalaw Blog reported last month that the case was dismissed as “moot”, citing the hemp changes in the 2018 Farm Bill, with a promise that no more of Innovative Nutraceutical’s will be seized.

In February, two truck drivers in Oklahoma were arrested for carrying 18,000 pounds of hemp. Local newspapers reported that the hemp was being made into CBD medicine for veterans, and while it eventually tested under the federal THC limit of .03 percent, the drivers were still being held on charges of aggravated trafficking.

Similar arrests and seizures happened in Idaho when a 7,000-pound shipment of industrial hemp from Big Sky Scientific LLC headed to Colorado was seized by the Idaho State Police. The Associated Press reported that field tests and the K9 unit confirmed the product to be cannabis, but neither tests can determine the level of THC in the plant.

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Since the definition of industrial hemp relies heavily on whether or not it contains less than .03 percent THC, border patrol and police field tests need to evolve in order to detect illegal substances accurately. In the meantime, hemp business owners and their employees need to understand their rights and determine what kinds of systems can be implemented to avoid bureaucratic barricades like this in the future.

How can law firms help the hemp industry?

Law firms, in particular, especially those directly involved with the cannabis industry, are in a unique position to inform, educate, and protect hemp and marijuana businesses from the effects of trickle-down policies like these. The Hoban Law Group in Denver released a statement in 2016 explaining the changes to American hemp policies long before the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. The firm noted discrepancies in the way certain agents at certain ports handled hemp policies and shipments two years ago, and the more recent misunderstandings at state borders imply that many hemp businesses are still at the mercy of agency ignorance.

In order to keep hemp industries and the rest of the cannabis industry operating on the right side of the law, attorneys are teaming up with state and local cannabis departments. The Rodman Law Group, also based out of Denver, developed a close relationship with both the Marijuana Enforcement Division and the Industrial Hemp Division of the Colorado Department of Agriculture in order to give their clients a better understanding of the state cannabis regulations.

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Creating close relationships like these brings more legitimacy to the industry by giving cannabis and hemp businesses support from both lawyers and regulators. It also helps when there is a lawyer on your side who understands the direction the industry is moving toward. Dave Rodman, founder of Rodman Law Group, told CBD Today last month that he believes the cannabis industry is only seeing the beginning of enforcement.

“The new legislation never specifically mentions cannabidiol or CBD. It just allowed for hemp to have a different legal status based on its THC content ...” Rodman explained in April. “You should always be afraid of the legal consequences of a product you make, especially one that is ingested by humans and animals.”

This kind of perspective is exactly what the hemp industry needs if it wants to overcome the legal gray area American policy has forced industrial hemp into. Until such a time when border patrol field tests can accurately measure THC levels, and until the government creates a clear set of guidelines regarding the shipment and processing of hemp and marijuana, lawyers will continue to be the liaison between cannabis and the laws attempting to regulate it.

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