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Oklahoma Hemp Bust (Update)

Oklahoma Hemp Bust (Update)

Four men were arrest during an Oklahoma hemp bust back in January. Now two men are finally free, with the other two with unsure futures.

The Real Dirt reported on a story back in January that involved a company transporting hemp through Oklahoma. The hemp was poorly stored, resulting in odor that could be smelled 2 miles down the road, by police.

What happened next cause quite some controversy in the new legal Oklahoma hemp industry.

The Original Oklahoma Hemp Bust

In early January Andrew Ross from Aurora, CO was providing security for the transport of several thousand pounds of what he claimed to be industrial hemp from Oklahoma to Colorado. Ross and the semi-truck he was assisting was pulled over in Pawhuska, Oklahoma after running a red light. 

The officer smelled what he claimed to be cannabis as he approached Ross’ van, at which point Ross told him that they were the security for the semi-truck transporting hemp. Ross was then instructed to open the semi-truck, revealing over 9,000 pounds of hemp or cannabis.

After conducting a field test, which tests for any amount of THC, the officer believed the plants to be cannabis and not hemp. However, legal hemp can have up to .3% THC. This led to a lengthy delay in the case as the local police had to send the plants to be lab-tested, which was additionally delayed by the government shutdown in January.

During this time, two of the four who were arrested — Ross, one other in the van and another two in the semi-truck were arrested in total — have remained in prison since they couldn’t afford bail. They most likely won’t be released until the conclusive results of the tests come back.

The Update

While four men were arrested back in January, only the two truck drivers who couldn’t afford bail have remained in prison, until about a month ago. In late March, all charges were dropped against the truck drivers Tadesse Deneke and Farah Warsame.

But for Andrew Ross and his partner that provided security for the transport, the legal battle is not over. While a local man from Tulsa actually offered to pay the bond for Deneke and Warsame to get them out of jail, setting them free, The DA is still pursuing charges aginst the security company.

Of the seized material that was tested, eight of the eleven tests conducted came back “hot”. In other words, the THC levels of the samples tested above the legal amount of .3%, with the hot samples testing between .38% and .5% THC. That is no longer considered legal hemp under federal law.

According the DA’s ongoing investigation, the security drivers for the truck may have had more knowledge about what they were transporting compared to the truck drivers. Implicating that they could have know they were transporting illegal hemp, and let the drivers, who had no experience with hemp, transport it anyway.

What Comes Next?

While the security guards are not being held in jail since they posted bail, their charges have still not been dropped. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison for transportation of illegal cannabis.

And this is case is still far from over. The next court appearance for the security guards is not until August 8th, 2019. The evidence is starting to point toward foul play. If the security guards knew they were transporting illegal material, they will be held responsible, along with the company that grew the hemp to begin with.

If it really is true that almost none of the hemp on the truck was .3%, then this is a case of someone trying to skirt the law, but not getting close enough to do it. This is a weeding out process, and people will try to take advantage of a new, infantile industry with little regulation or state oversight currently.

The Real Dirt will continue coverage of this case as it develops.

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Everything You Need to Know About Growing Alabama Hemp (Pt. 1)

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Alabama Hemp (Pt. 1)

Wow. Finally by the grace of God, hemp is finally legal. In Alabama, this is an exciting time and opportunity for many people.

With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is now considered a legitimate farm crop in the US. The problem is that hardly anyone knows how to grow hemp, and the people that have been growing hemp have only grown limited amounts, in limited environments.

Now Alabama and a number of other southern states have “legalized it.” But what does that mean?

What is hemp?

Hemp is considered any cannabis plant that has less than .3% THC. This is the only thing that defines what makes hemp legal in the US. With the new Farm Bill of 2018 comes the ability for farmers and states that have regulated the production of hemp to legally farm it.

Even though it’s called industrial hemp, there is very little industrial use of hemp today.

Out of hemp you can make everything from paper to plastics, cement to chipboard. We are on the cutting edge of this technology and we have yet to see industry spring up around it. In the future we will see the above and more utilized for industrial hemp. But until then farmers will have to settle on growing hemp for CBD extraction and potentially seed for food.

Growing hemp for grain can be lucrative. The seeds are inexpensive, however you have to be mechanically geared for the scale of this type of production. Think hundreds or thousands of acres.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is the most lucrative side of industrial hemp today. It is a medicinal component of the cannabis plant that doesn’t share any psychoactive affects with its relative, THC. CBD is used in everything from skin creams to anti-seizure medications. It truly is a wondrous natural supplement.

As of today, CBD is the only way that you’ll be able to be cash positive from any hemp farming activity. If you’re lucky enough to have applied and received an Alabama Hemp License to grow hemp, then it’s time to get started.

The Plant

CBD hemp has many growth patterns and harvest times. It can be planted from June to August in most of the US. Alabama hemp is no different.

Unlike its cousin (i.e. ganja, marijuana, herb), Alabama hemp is grown on a considerably larger scale, with very different techniques.

The first thing you need decide before starting in Alabama hemp, is whether you want to grow from clones or seeds. High-CBD hemp seeds are available for approximately one dollar a seed on the current marketplace. These are feminized seeds that only produce female plants (or at least 90% or female plants).

That’s right. You still can have some percent of males show up, but that’s a little more complex science than we want to get into now. Basically, if you buy 10,000 feminized seeds you’re mostly going to get female plants. Don’t worry if you get a little seed in your hemp either.

You can just as easily purchase traditional seeds that will randomly be male and females. On a small scale of 5 to 10 acres this could be an excellent choice. It is easy enough to cut down all the males as they show their sex, leaving only the females in your field.

However if you do this you have to plant at twice the density in order to compensate for losing half of your plants.

Clones are by far the best way to have consistent yields and performance.

In part 2 of this guide, we’ll go over tips for planting properly, keeping your Alabama hemp plants healthy and maintaining your fields.

You can also hear from somebody who’s breaking into the Alabama hemp industry right now, Brett Terry, on The Real Dirt Podcast.

Why Are CBD Products Exploding?

Why Are CBD Products Exploding?

It’s a unique compound that has Facebook moms and media outlets mystified. But why is CBD all the sudden exploding?

There’s a few reasons CBD products are becoming more popular every day, especially in the United States. The first has already been mentioned; the media. But we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with the recent legality change of CBD.

The 2018 Farm Bill

CBD is a chemical compound found only in the cannabis plant. It is present in almost all varieties of cannabis, even if in just trace amounts. This means that CBD is also found in hemp.

Hemp has had a bumpy relationship with the U.S. government since the early 1900s. While the hemp industry was huge in the 1920s, the paper industry was quickly rising, and couldn’t compete, starting a propaganda campaign eventually leading to the criminalization of hemp and cannabis.

At least, that’s the theory.

While hemp was considered federally illegal much like cannabis (they are the same thing), states could still pass their own laws regarding hemp, much like states now that have legal cannabis laws. Colorado even added an amendment to their state constitution, giving citizens the right the grow hemp.

But in 2018, it all changed. The 2018 Farm Bill fully legalized “industrial hemp” at the federal level.

The Legalization of Industrial Hemp

What is industrial hemp? What makes it different from “regular” hemp? This is where some people get caught up.

While hemp and cannabis are the same thing, any cannabis variety that gets you “high” contains high amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Most cannabis strains you can get in the legal market are bred to have as high THC levels as possible, with little focus on the other compounds.

Hemp has always been seen as the weedy, wild version of cannabis. It isn’t bred to have high THC, but through its evolution of enduring tough climates in the wild, hemp varieties naturally have higher CBD levels. However, not all hemp is legal, hence the term “industrial hemp”.

Industrial hemp is strictly cannabis that has a THC content of .3% or less. Anything above is still illegal. So even though .4 or .5% THC wouldn’t have any real affect on a person, it is considered psychoactive cannabis, still illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

So, now industrial hemp is legal, as long as it doesn’t surpass .3% THC. However there is no regulation for CBD at the moment. This has opened up quite a lucrative opportunity for cannabis industry entrepreneurs and farmers alike.

The Rise of CBD Products

CBD started out slow. Products existed, such as hemp seed oil and other hemp derived products that contained CBD, but little was known about the actual benefits of CBD. Then came Charlotte’s Web.

Charlotte was a little girl in California suffering from intense seizures, sometimes having dozens a day to the point she was incapacitated. After a cannabis farm in Northern California developed a CBD specific strain that had extremely low THC, but high CBD, they turned it into a digestible tincture for Charlotte.

Her seizures all but stopped. This is where the snowball started rolling. 

More and more people started treating their children’s epilepsy with CBD, then more studies came out showing CBD potential in aiding with chronic pain. With its growing social acceptance,  plus the added boost of the Farm Bill, more CBD businesses are opening their doors.

While it is still currently unregulated, there is an entire CBD marketplace that has developed online. From Amazon to CBD wholesaler websites, anybody can buy CBD products online with a credit card. With massive availability and a growing understanding of its benefits, all CBD needed to push over the edge was some media attention.

cbd products are becoming popular in the media

The Today Show covering the extraction of CBD from cannabis in a March 2019 segment.

The Influence Machine

To say that modern media outlets in America carry a large swath of influence would be a massive understatement. And with more news outlets than ever before in history accessible with just a few clicks, people are ingesting more information and influential content than ever before.

With the passing of the Farm Bill and increased public awareness about the benefits of CBD, people started talking online. What started as a niche group of mostly middle aged women sharing their experiences of helping their arthritis pain with a little CBD ointment, spread across the web like a bushfire.

Before long, CNN was covering the rise of CBD products. Soon after that, so was The Washington post. As did NBC, CBS, and even Fox News.

With the media machine pushing it into the mainstream, and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram flush with CBD anecdotes and articles, its rise was inevitable.

The question now is, will it last?

The Future of CBD Products

The future for CBD is still vague. It isn’t currently regulated by the FDA, and its only claim to legality lies within the rulings of the 2018 Farm Bill. There have already been plenty of issues with CBD and industrial hemp since legalization, and most likely, there won’t be any shortage of issues throughout 2019.

That doesn’t mean the market isn’t growing. In fact, the CBD industry is growing at a rate that could put it on pace to surpass legal cannabis by 2022. With that said, regardless of new regulations or restrictions, the future of CBD products is most likely bright, and green.

Want to learn more about the rise of CBD and the legal hemp industry? Check out this episode of The Real Dirt Podcast, featuring Graham Carlson of Charlotte’s Web, Mike Leago of the International Hemp Exchange, and Hollis Carter of Lefty’s Hemp Co.

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Los Angeles cannabis permit problems

Los Angeles cannabis permit problems

California had the right idea when they legalized cannabis in 2017. But with incredible delays, lack of resources and a surplus of entrepreneurs hoping to make a name for themselves in the industry, the state and cities like Los Angeles are struggling.

Over four million people live in the city of Los Angeles. It’s no surprise then, that the inhabitants would try to work in the new legal system. But it hasn’t been as simple, or profitable, as originally projected.

California is the biggest state in the country, as well as the largest supplier of cannabis. When the state legalized, it virtually leveled the main supplier in the state; the private market.

Unprepared, Understaffed, Overwhelmed

While strict requirements, exorbitant application fees and an originally-one-man advisory board made the legal industry all but unattainable for smaller growers and farms in the state, the process was made much simpler for retailers. Medical retailers, that is.

In Los Angeles, priority was given to owners of retail medical dispensaries in the application process. Since they already had the location, the storefront and the brand, all that was needed was a transition to the new regulatory requirements for recreational cannabis.

Second in line for application review came those that legally supplied the medical cannabis to the dispensaries in Los Angeles. It makes sense because once the retail locations are transitioned to recreational, they can continue to use the same growers and suppliers, maintaining their business relationships in the new, legal industry, with minimal delay. At least, that’s how it went on paper.

In reality, the situation isn’t going so smoothly. In February of 2018, the city gave out about 180 temporary permits to allow medical dispensaries to operate recreationally. For the growers and suppliers, the same was to be done by April. Those temporary permits weren’t issued until the end of August.

This shouldn’t be surprising considering the total lack of manpower the Department of Cannabis Regulation had then and now. The directory board of the department started with just one member. Now, over a year since legalization, there are only 13 members on the board. Now imagine those 13 people handling every single application process for the hundreds of retailers, growers and processors.

The picture starts to become pretty clear. As if the city didn’t have enough on its plate, it also included a social equity program in its local laws, aimed at helping repair some of the damage done by the war on drugs.

Los Angeles Social Equity Program

This is where the state of California and the city of Los Angeles could have set a great precedent for new and current legal industries. The city established a social equity program that would give priority to those most negatively affected by the drug war prior to legalization.

People of color in the city were disproportionately arrested for small drug crimes involving cannabis compared to their white counterparts, despite statistical data showing no difference in cannabis use between the two groups. This group and other minority groups negatively impacted by the drug war were meant to be some of the first allowed into the new, legal industry.

Unfortunately that isn’t how it has worked out for Los Angeles. While the social equity program gave priority to these minority groups, the Department of Cannabis Regulation gave higher priority to already-established medical retailers, growers and processors. And with the — to put it mildly — severe lag of the application process, these groups still haven’t had one single approval.

Mind you these are people who do not currently have a business, and want to open one in the recreational market. Many leapt for storefront dispensary locations, despite the low availability. Los Angeles put a cap on how many storefronts can be opened in a neighborhood, in addition to strict requirements for location (e.g. can’t be near schools, other dispensaries, public parks), greatly limiting the options for would-be entrepreneurs.

When it comes to timeframes, the city hasn’t been shy on the issue either;

“Bringing cannabis above ground is an incredibly complex process, and L.A. is doing it on an unprecedented scale,” Alex Comisar, a spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti, said in a statement. “Our goal is to do this the right way, not the quick way or the easy way — and we’ve always been very clear about that.”

It’s a rough road ahead

Los Angeles is way behind schedule. It’s a fact. And the local government isn’t doing much to speed up the process. The Department of Cannabis Regulation currently sits at 13 members. Multiple additional position have been filed, but due to the slow city hiring process, anyone new has yet to be hired.

The head of the city council Herb Wesson insists that everything will basically sort itself out. Even with reports of many potential entrepreneurs leaving the city to open up shop elsewhere, Wesson isn’t fazed. “I have no time for folks that want to go somewhere else. Let ’em.”

Instead, as months have passed, industry groups and consultants have complained that many cannabis entrepreneurs are stuck paying steep prices for multiyear leases, after landlords hiked prices on eligible storefronts. 

“You had a lot of people who followed the city’s guidance and signed leases,” paying upwards of $10,000 a month in rent, said Larry Mondragon, vice president of zoning and entitlements for Craig Fry & Associates, a consulting firm helping cannabis businesses. “People are holding onto leases, paying exorbitant checks, not even knowing when they’re able to turn in applications to the city.”

Equity applicants are supposed to get a helping hand from the city through “business, licensing and compliance assistance.” But more than a year after recreational cannabis sales became legal, there are no city programs providing such aid.

So far, the only funding the city has approved for social equity is $250,000 for a fee deferral program. Department officials say they now are seeking more than $4 million for the program, hoping to roll out support services, such as business development training, no sooner than July.

Los Angeles needs to step up. California needs to step up. There are a lot of problems in the state with little to no solutions. Something needs to be done at the city level to change that. How, and even if that will be done, is still unknown.

Missouri Medical Marijuana Makes Moves

Missouri Medical Marijuana Makes Moves

Over 300 Missouri medical marijuana licenses will be distributed in the state in 2019. Is the state about to pop off?

As of February 7, 2019, more than $3 million medical marijuana license fees have been paid since the state began accepting pre-filed applications a month ago. Over 400 applications have been submitted to the Department of Health since then.

Among those applications, 226 were for dispensaries, 128 were for cultivation facilities and 64 forms for infused product manufacturing.

Missouri Medical Marijuana

Amendment 2 legalizes growing, manufacturing, selling and consuming marijuana and marijuana products for medicinal use at the state level. The state began accepting pre-filed applications in January 2019.

According to backers of Amendment 2, 192 dispensaries will be ready and operational for patients by 2020. The amendment sets up the following fee schedule:

  • Patient fees are $25 per year;
  • Dispensary fees are $6,000 initially, then $10,000 per year;
  • Cultivation fees are $10,000 initially, then $25,000 per year; and
  • Infused-products fees are $6,000 initially, then $10,000 per year.

The state will issue at least 61 licenses to cultivate marijuana, which works out to one cultivator license per 100,000 Missouri residents, according to the amendment. At least 82 licenses will be issued to makers of cannabis-infused products.

On Pace For A Scheduled Start

While patients will be able to begin the application process for their medical marijuana licenses starting June 4th, those who did not pre-file their business applications must wait until August 4th. After all applications are in, the state has until December 31, 2019 to approve the applications.

It is then assumed that the Missouri medical marijuana industry will be launching in January of 2020. The state governor is committed to the will of people and has given his word to allow the medical marijuana industry in the state to progress unhindered. The state is implementing a system similar to Oregon and Colorado’s medical marijuana programs, and it is moving fast just like Oklahoma’s current program.

The state’s speed of implementation is impressive, but citizens have noticed a serious flaw in an interpretation of the amendment.

Not All Is Well

The Missouri medical marijuana program is moving ahead as scheduled, but people have brought up an issue pertaining to the confidentiality of those applying to work in the industry. I.e. the state has not released any information regarding the identities of those applying.

A section in Amendment 2 requires DHSS to “maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information obtained from an applicant or licensee,” but backers of the Amendment are claiming that tis was not the intended meaning.

Backers of Amendment 2 have said that provision of the legal text is not meant to shield the identities of business-related medical marijuana license applicants from public disclosure. And a week ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sued state government over the issue, asking a judge to order DHSS to release copies of documents submitted with the pre-filed fees.

It looks like Missouri medical marijuana in on track. Sure it has hit some speed bumps, but so has every other state legalizing either medicinally or recreationally. Compared to other states, Missouri is ahead of the pack with its timeline.

It seems that the industry in Missouri will be getting off its feet in a year’s time, but it is definitely too soon to say whether the state can stick to their timeline once the applications start flooding in.

Legal Hemp or Illegal Cannabis?

Legal Hemp or Illegal Cannabis?

Legal hemp may have been included in the 2018 Farm Bill, but that hasn’t stopped some serious issues from arising since its passing.

Farmers everywhere rejoiced when legal hemp was signed into the Farm Bill at the end of 2018. But the bill has yet to actually take effect, and it could be another year before federal law surrounding hemp actually takes hold.

This delay hasn’t stopped many from jumping in head first to the hemp industry in an attempt to get ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, state governments aren’t as eager to jump in.

Oklahoma Hemp Bust

In early January Andrew Ross from Aurora, CO was transporting several thousand pounds of what he claimed to be industrial hemp to Oklahoma to Colorado. Ross’ semi-truck was pulled over in Pawhuska after running a red light. 

The officer smelled what he claimed to be cannabis as he approached Ross’ van, at which point Ross told him that they were the security for the semi-truck transporting hemp. Ross was then instructed to open the semi-truck, revealing over 20 bags of the green plant.

After conducting a field test, which tests for any amount of THC, the officer believed the plants to be cannabis and not hemp. However, legal hemp can have up to .3% THC. This has led to a lengthy delay in the case as the local police have had to send the plants to be lab-tested, which was additionally delayed by the recent government shutdown.

Unfortunately, during this time, two of the four who were arrested — Ross and one other in the van and another two in the semi-truck were arrested in total — have remained in prison since they couldn’t afford bail. They most likely won’t be released until the conclusive results of the tests come back.

Legal Hemp In Oklahoma

Industrial hemp was legal in Oklahoma before the Farm Bill was signed. This means that the hemp Ross claims to be transporting, is perfectly legal in the state. But that isn’t the problem here.

The issue is that law enforcement and government officials alike cannot confidently judge the difference between “legal hemp” and “illegal cannabis”. When field tests will always say cannabis if there is any trace of THC, no police officer can realistically judge a situation in which they smell what they think is cannabis, even if hemp smells exactly the same.

A similar issue has arose in Idaho, where there are no such hemp laws on the books, and the government is in no hurry to abide by the new Farm Bill.

Biggest Bust In History (?)

Law enforcement officials are saying it could be the biggest cannabis bust in state history. If it is cannabis that they found in the back of Dennis Palamarchuk’s semi-truck, that is.

During a routine highway semi-truck safety inspection, the conducting officer smelled strong odor of what they suspected to be cannabis. Much like Ross’ story, the truck statement claimed that the 31 bags in the truck all contained industrial hemp. However, since this happened in Idaho, where there are no laws on the books regarding hemp at the state level, it has caused more problems.

legal hemp bust in oklahoma and idaho

Over 6,000 pounds of hemp that supposedly tested positive for THC. The amount of THC has not been specified.
Photo courtesy of Idaho State Police

According to the Farm Bill, states that do not have hemp laws on the state level have two options. Propose a plan to the federal government for their own hemp laws that still stay within federal guidelines, or follow federal law on the state level. Idaho has neither submitted a plan nor assumed the laws put forth in the Farm Bill as of yet.

This means that whether or not Palamarchuk was transporting hemp or cannabis is irrelevant. In Idaho, both are currently still illegal. Thus, Dennis was arrested for trafficking, and as it stands, police have seized over 7,000 pounds of what they consider to be cannabis. While testing positively as hemp may help Dennis legally, it appears that there is little to be done for him in this situation.

What Happens Next?

These two separate but similar issues have highlighted serious problems in law enforcement’s ability to recognize and distinguish differences between now federally legal hemp, and illegal cannabis. Current technology does not allow police officers conducting a normal stop and search to confidently judge the results of a field test.

As laws change, state governments will have no choice but to follow federal law in some manner and allow transportation of industrial hemp. How the states will enforce this while keeping hemp separate from cannabis is yet to be seen. If these two busts are any sign of things to come, however, we have a long way to go.

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