Although hemp production has been federally legal since congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act in December of 2018, a cloud of legal uncertainty continues to loom over the versatile plant and its chemical compound, CBD. The widespread confusion has led to multiple arrests and significant seizures of hemp products, and has sparked renewed debate over the substance’s legality.
The following hemp arrests illustrate these ongoing complications.
On January 24, 2019, Idaho State Police (ISP) arrested Oregon truck driver Denis Palamarchuk after finding over 6,000 pounds of hemp in the trailer. While the product contained less than .3% THC – the legal limit for industrial hemp – authorities contended that the substance was marijuana, seized the cargo, and charged Palamarchuk with felony trafficking of marijuana.
Palamarchuk spent four days in jail and is currently pleading not guilty. VIP Transporter, the Portland-based trucking company he was working for, is suing Idaho State Police to recover its product, as is Big Sky Scientific, the company that purchased the hemp. While the two companies argue that the hemp was legal to produce and transport due to its THC count, ISP attorneys say that substances containing any amount of THC are illegal under Idaho law.
While attempting to enter Disney World’s Magic Kingdom on April 15, 2019, 69-year-old Hester Burkhalter was arrested when security found a bottle of CBD oil in her purse. Orange County police detained Burkhalter for 12 hours before releasing her on $2,000 bail.
Burkhalter says the oil was recommended by a doctor to treat her arthritis, and the bottle found in her possession was labeled as containing zero THC. However, local law enforcement says they tested it themselves and found positive amounts of THC in the product.
Orange County police eventually dropped the charges against Burkhalter, but their clemency did not dissuade civil rights attorney Ben Crump from taking up Burkhalter’s cause. Crump claims Burkhalter “endured illegal detention, false arrest and a violation of her civil rights,” and says he is prepared to sue Orange County and Disney “unless they take responsibility for their actions.”
On April 24, mere days after opening Cajun Cannabis – a CBD shop and café – Lafayette police arrested Travis DeYoung and seized much of his store’s inventory, as well as two firearms. The 17 charges DeYoung faces include felony counts for possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance and the manufacture, distribution, or possession of marijuana.
According to Lafayette Sheriff Mark Garber, his department began investigating DeYoung after multiple citizens filed complaints alleging illegal activity at the Cajun Cannabis location. Prior to the arrest, police purchased products from the store and they tested positive for THC.
Shortly after the Agricultural Improvement Act was signed into law, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control announced that they would issue citations to any retail permit holders who sell CBD products which the agency has banned, and remove all CBD products from the premises. Despite the notice, Cajun Cannabis received an official occupancy certificate from the Lafayette Consolidated Government.
Four men were arrested in Pawhuska, Oklahoma after police pulled over their truck and trailing van for running a red light. After smelling marijuana, police seized over 20,000 pounds of what they claimed was marijuana, then arrested all four men. The substance they seized was actually industrial hemp, but charged the men with trafficking marijuana nonetheless.
Police also found a 9mm pistol in the van and are charging the van’s occupants, Andrew Ross and David Dirksen, for possessing a gun during the commission of a felony. Ross and Dirksen told police they worked as security guards for Patriot Shield, a veteran-owned security company that works exclusively in the cannabis industry. They said they were providing the truck with protection as it traveled to Louisville Colorado, where it would deliver the product to Panacea Life Sciences.
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