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Interstate hemp commerce has proven once again that we have a long way to go toward hemp reform in the nation.

In January 2019, Colorado-based CBD company, Big Sky Scientific, lost more than 6700 pounds of hemp flower to roadside confiscation. The hemp was being transported from Oregon to Colorado when it was seized by Idaho State Police.

After almost a year in trial, Fourth District Judge Jonathan Medena ruled that the hemp in question – valued at $1.3 million – was, in fact, a controlled substance according to Idaho state law and must, therefore, be forfeited to the proper officials. This is despite the fact that the hemp was federally compliant as it contained less than the .3 percent THC.

According to Idaho law, all parts of the cannabis plant (except mature stalks) are illegal to possess in the state. Specifically, all THC is illegal in Idaho even if it falls below the maximum threshold allotted by the federal government. As such, Idaho State Police were within their jurisdiction to interfere with interstate hemp commerce by confiscating the hemp. Humorously, the group touted the bust as the biggest marijuana bust in the state’s history.

Despite an almost year-long lawsuit between Big Sky Scientific and the Idaho State Police Department, the CBD company will not receive its product back. Big Sky’s legal team argued that the hemp was grown in compliance with the 2014 Farm Bill of which both states are a part. However, the defense poised that the company intended to sell the shipment. Thus, it was not compliant with the research-only Farm Bill rules.

Though the most recent Farm Bill removed CBD as a controlled substance and legalized interstate hemp commerce, its transportation must still abide by local law. Idaho considers any plant with any THC “marijuana.” Hence, hemp with any amount of THC is eligible for confiscation by Idaho officials.

Federal Versus State Hemp Farming Rules

According to Idaho lawmakers, it is impractical to expect law enforcement to make the distinction between hemp and marijuana during a standard roadside stop. Though COAs and hemp transport permits may help move hemp across state lines, this whole debacle proves that inconsistencies in state hemp laws will inevitably slow the move toward cannabis and hemp reform.

Hemp farmers, processors, and handlers must remain abreast of hemp laws in different states and take the proper precautions to move and sell the product safely. Even then, as long as testing procedures, THC limits, and transportation laws vary, interstate hemp commerce will remain a volatile transaction.

However, we must also not be too quick to demand federal intervention in interstate hemp transport, cultivation, and processing. The federal government establishes laws too quickly, especially without input from experienced regional growers. If they do, federal law could trump the pre-established rules that many farmers rely on. For example, the USDA’s new hemp rules require farmers to test the top two inches of a mature plant. It also requires farmers to submit samples 15 days before harvest. Additionally, farmers cannot harvest their hemp until test results are in. Concerned farmers suggest this is not enough time to test and harvest. They further purport that it will lead to a bottleneck in testing that will slow the process even further.

The laws further stipulate that permissible THC levels are .3 percent plus or minus a slight variance. Farmers must destroy all crops that test over the limit with no option to repurpose for industrial purposes. What’s more, destroyed crops do not qualify for farming insurance. If crops test over .5 percent THC, farmers may receive negligent farming penalties, as well.

The Clash Between USDA and State Hemp Farming Rules

These USDA rules conflict with many state’s pre-established testing procedures. For example, California’s hemp testing rules require farmers to test the top 18 inches of a hemp plant. This including flowers, leaves, and stems. This more closely aligns with initial hemp protocol. Remember, hemp is any cannabis plant with less than .3 percent total weight, not total flower weight. Including stems and leaves into the test sample will naturally lower THC levels as they do not contain high cannabinoid concentrations in the first place.

Furthermore, a 15-day testing window is too short for most farmers. Though many states have longer testing windows, federal hemp regulation could force them to abide by these unrealistic standards.

Solving Interstate Hemp Commerce Concerns

Interstate hemp commerce faces many challenges, largely due to the Schedule I status of THC. If legislators treat THC as a dangerous narcotic, states and federal officials will continue to disagree about proper handling procedures.

What do you think should be done to reduce unjust hemp flower seizures and improve hemp interstate transportation? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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