Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp

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Four People Face Felony Charges After Oklahoma Police Seize Hemp Shipment

Four people face felony charges after Oklahoma police seized hemp bound from Kentucky to Colorado. They’re charged with drug trafficking after cops found 18,000 pounds of hemp in their tractor-trailer. 

Update JANUARY 24, 2019: We previously updated this article to report that everyone involved was out of jail. However, a report via Twitter suggests two truck drivers remain imprisoned:

Four people face felony charges after Oklahoma police seized hemp bound from Kentucky to Colorado.

The four are charged with drug trafficking after cops found 18,000 pounds of hemp in the back of their tractor-trailer. Police from Pawhuska, Oklahoma pulled the shippers over at 3:00am on January 9, claiming they ran a red light. When police stuck their noses in the vehicle, they smelled a strong odor which greatly resembled psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”), leading to the charges.

The truck was transporting hemp from Kentucky to Colorado on behalf of Panacea Life Sciences, a CBD brand. As readers of our site know, the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp legal nationwide when it became law in December. The new law specifically protects interstate commerce. Therefore, the drivers were following the law.

A highway patrol officer holds his palm out while making a road side stop. Oklahoma police seized 18,000 pounds of legal hemp on January 9. 4 people involved in transporting the crop now face felony charges.

Oklahoma police seized 18,000 pounds of legal hemp on January 9. 4 people involved in transporting the crop now face felony charges.

However, two of the four still remain in jail as police insist that they don’t know whether the truck contained legal hemp or illegal marijuana. The four accused all pled not guilty at their initial hearing.

LAW ENFORCEMENT’S BIG FLAW

The Farm Bill makes it clear that there shouldn’t be any legal battle at all. Hemp is legal and these men were in total compliance with the law. Yet, as we’re witnessing, law enforcement continues to insist these men deserve to face charges.

We talked with James “Jamie” Baumgartner, the president of Panacea Life Sciences about the incident.

“To be honest, I personally tend to trust law enforcement,” Baumgartner proclaimed. “But I don’t know if they really know what they’re doing here.”

One source of Baumgartner’s uncertainty: the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sent the hemp to a laboratory to do a binary test. The purpose was to discover whether or not there would be THC in the product.

“Of course, it’s going to test positive cause there is 0.3 percent THC in the product,” Baumgartner explained.

Under the law, hemp is fully legal as long as it contains less than 0.3 percent THC. He continued:

“Then they did another binary test that they [DEA] claim is definitive to show it’s marijuana, by taking a look at the product under a microscope. Which is the first time I’ve ever heard of that.”

Obviously, the latter test can’t confirm anything considering the fact that hemp and marijuana look nearly identical — they’re two forms of the same plant! As Baumgartner puts it, the only way to really tell the difference between the two is through, “a cannabinoid profile.”

Until the cannabis is properly tested, the four men will remain in custody. There’s only one major issue, as Baumgartner states:

“[Oklahoma law enforcement] wants to send it through Washington D.C. to be tested. But with the government shutdown, that laboratory is not operational right now.”

FIGHTING BACK AFTER OKLAHOMA POLICE SEIZE HEMP SHIPMENT

Baumgartner is pushing for the material to be tested properly even with the complication of a government shutdown. He and his team at Panacea have argued with police that they should, “find a neutral laboratory.”

“We’ve suggested they use the Colorado Department of Agriculture … to determine the THC content of the material.”

Unfortunately, there’s been little “open dialogue in terms of resolving the situation.”

Rather, law enforcement is taking matters into their own hands and, as mentioned above, it doesn’t seem like they quite know what’s going on.

Baumgartner told us he has never run into problems with the law before. Caught off guard by this unexpected seizure, he’s frustrated that police haven’t responded to his concerns. This is especially overwhelming considering some of these men have families who don’t know what’s going to happen.

Furthermore, Baumgartner predicted the bust could cost Panacea $1 million. Of course, he hopes that once Oklahoma law enforcement realizes the plants are hemp and therefore legal, there’s a good chance they’ll get the shipment back. However, then Panacea must worry about any damages which may have come about through this whole process.

Seen from the shoulders down, a farmer in a black hoodie gives a thumbs up while posing with a basket of freshly harvested hemp. Although the Farm Bill fully legalized hemp, it's clear the stigma around the plant still remains.

Although the Farm Bill fully legalized hemp, it’s clear the stigma around the plant still remains.

“If we can verify that it has not been damaged then we rock’n’roll with it,” Baumgartner said. “If it has been damaged so that we cannot use it, then we’ll seek recourse through civil litigation.”

THE ANTI-HEMP STIGMA CONTINUES

Obviously, the stigma against hemp is far from gone. The fact that this whole mess is even happening might seem absurd to many within the hemp industry and community. However, when it comes to the general public, they still don’t see the difference between hemp and “marijuana.” 

“When I take a look at this whole situation, our number one priority is to make sure these individuals are not charged and are able to go back to their families and their lives, “Baumgartner said.

“Number two is to get our hemp back. And I’m really hoping we have a positive end to this story.”

He added:

“I hope we have a better understanding of rules and regulations. About how to handle hemp shipments in the future. I mean the last thing I really wanted to do was offer an interview for your publication about this problem. I’d rather be talking about the beneficial health properties of hemp.”

Panacea Life Sciences’ staff asked us to share this GoFundMe fundraiser for the arrested hemp drivers, and encouraged our readers to contribute. 

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UPDATE: Drug Charges Against Nebraska CBD Shop Owners Dropped

Last week, police raided a Nebraska CBD shop and arrested the owners. Now co-owners Heather Beguin and her son Dreyson Beguin face felony charges. Despite hemp’s recent legalization, police inside CBD is a “controlled substance.”

Update JANUARY 14, 2019: The state dropped all criminal charges against the Beguins. Charges were dropped “without prejudice,” meaning the state could choose to reintroduce them again at a later date. 

“We are thankful the development,” said attorney Maren Chaloupka in an emailed statement. Chaloupka, from the Scottsbluff-based firm Chaloupka, Holyoke, Snyder, Chaloupka & Longoria, represented the Beguin’s in the case, thanks to the financial assistance of CBD vendors Medterra. Chaloupka told us:

“The Beguins want to provide a homeopathic alternative that is drug-free, to help customers avoid addictive pharmaceuticals. We hope that the Nebraska Legislature will clarify that products that don’t contain THC and don’t get the user high are not illegal, and that the small businesses offering those products are not criminals.”

Update DECEMBER 26, 2018: A second Nebraska CBD shop, located in Bellevue, Nebraska, just south of Omaha, is now under threat from authorities. Though the American Shaman store operated without issue for the past 3 months, police gave owners 2 weeks to close down or face legal action. We’ll continue to update this article as this situation develops.

Last week, police raided a Nebraska CBD shop and arrested the owners.

KB Natural Alternatives, a CBD store in the small city of Scottsbluff, was only open for a day when about a dozen officers arrived to shut them down, according to owners Heather Beguin and her son Dreyson. Now, the pair face felony drug charges. Police accuse them of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to sell it to the public.

The arrests occurred just days before the December 20, 2018 passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which fully removed hemp and all hemp-derived substances like CBD from the Controlled Substances Act.

The Beguins’ store sold products by Medterra, a well-known CBD company that creates products from legal industrial hemp. Medterra’s products are rigorously tested to show that they don’t contain illegal amounts of THC, the active ingredient in psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) which makes people feel high.

In an email, Medterra leadership told us they’re standing by the Beguins and will cover the pair’s legal expenses.

“As a company, Medterra stands behind the legality of our products and our partners right to sell it,” wrote Jay Hartenbach, Medterra’s CEO. “The CBD industry is one of compassion and we fully intend to support our partners as they help us raise awareness to those in need.”

Dreyson and Heather Beguin pose in front of their Scottsbluff, Nebraska CBD shop. Dreyson and his mother Heather Beguin, co-owners of a Nebraska CBD shop, now face felony charges. Police claim that CBD is a "controlled substance."

Dreyson (left) and his mother Heather Beguin, co-owners of a Nebraska CBD shop, previously faced felony charges. Police claimed that CBD is a “controlled substance.” (Photo credit: Beguin family)

Despite this welcome assistance, the Beguins are still struggling with the emotional, physical, financial and legal consequences of their arrests.

“I know and believe in what we’re doing, but this has set me and my body back after I worked so hard to recover,” said a distraught-sounding Heather, when we spoke by phone.

SHOP OWNER DISCOVERED CBD AFTER CAR WRECK

Heather discovered the benefits of CBD in the painful aftermath of a July 2018 car accident. As a recovering opiate addict, she wanted to avoid using the pain medication doctors prescribed after the wreck.

“I wasn’t really thrilled about putting [opiates] back into my body because of the risk that maybe I still like that feeling.”

Trying to “tough it out” through the pain only slowed her healing, however. Dreyson, who was living in Florida at the time, suggested CBD.

“If you can’t rest, you can’t heal,” she recalled Dreyson telling her. After she found that topical CBD helped ease her lingering pain and inflammation, she wanted to find a way to share CBD with others. Soon, Dreyson moved back home to Scottsbluff to help her open KB Natural Alternatives.

NEBRASKA CBD SHOP ARRESTS HIGHLIGHT COMPLEXITIES OF US HEMP LAWS

Scottsbluff is a city of about 15,000 people, about 450 miles west of Omaha. At the same time as police were handcuffing the Beguins in Nebraska, people were freely smoking legal recreational cannabis just over two hours away in Colorado without fear of legal reprisal. In Austin, Texas, where this reporter lives, you can buy similar CBD oil supplements at Whole Foods’ flagship store.

This isn’t the first time that police launched a crackdown on a local CBD business selling otherwise legal products. During the summer of 2017, state police raided 57 stores selling CBD products in Indiana. In March of this year, Indiana passed a new state law clarifying that CBD oil supplements are legal.

 “I just hope our public officials learn from the other states that hemp is clearly different from marijuana.”

The timing of the Nebraska CBD shop arrests makes the severe treatment faced by the Beguins even more shocking. On December 13, a full week before the President signed the Farm Bill, the Alabama state Attorney General announced they would back down from threats to prosecute CBD vendors. Today, Michigan legislators passed a pair of bills supporting hemp, one of which clearly affirms the legality of CBD oil products.

In an interview with local news, Gunhee Park, an Omaha hemp entrepreneur, called the arrests “sad” and suggested Nebraska police and politicians should follow other states’ examples.

“I just hope our public officials learn from the other states that hemp is clearly different from marijuana,” Park told KETV anchor David Earl.

(Ministry of Hemp launched in 2014 with the help of Park’s Libertas Ventures LLC.)

Photo shows the roof and part of the light bar on a police cruiser, against a blurry urban background. Medterra CBD offered legal and financial assistance to Nebraska CBD shop owners Heather and Dreyson Beguin after their arrest. A friend also created a crowdfunding site to support the family.

Medterra CBD offered legal and financial assistance to Nebraska CBD shop owners Heather and Dreyson Beguin after their arrest. A friend also created a crowdfunding site to support the family.

POLICE RAID LEAVES NEBRASKA CBD SHOP OWNERS TRAUMATIZED

The Beguins knew opening KB Natural Alternatives posed a legal risk, but neither expected police to respond with arrests or felony charges. Heather said she even knows of people in Scottsbluff selling CBD online.

Before opening, Heather and Dreyson visited the local police chief. The pair brought along a sample of Medterra’s CBD products and lab tests proving that Medterra is free from illegal THC. Though the chief insisted CBD is illegal in Nebraska, he refused when Heather offered to leave the products behind. Now, the pair are facing felony charges for possessing the same supplements.

KB Natural Alternatives opened on December 13. The following afternoon, police arrived in force, arresting both owners. Police even detained and interrogated Heather’s friend that was visiting the shop. Officers refused to show the Beguin’s a search warrant, then spent hours coming through the shop.

Heather was bonded out of jail after just a few hours, because her mother and Heather’s youngest son unexpectedly dropped by the store to find police there instead of Heather and Dreyson. The younger son had a “bad feeling” that led them to check on his mother.

“We’re a very connected family,” Heather said. “We’re very close.”

The family couldn’t afford to do the same for Dreyson, so he spent the weekend in jail. He wasn’t released until late afternoon on Monday.

Dreyson and Heather were clearly shaken by their experience. Both sounded near tears at various points during our phone conversation. Though Dreyson said spending the weekend in jail was hard, he sounded more upset about seeing his mother arrested.

Even after just one day of business, other Scottsbluff residents worry about losing access to CBD.

“I have customers calling me crying, texting me,” Heather said.

MEDTERRA OFFERS LEGAL ASSISTANCE TO NEBRASKA CBD SHOP OWNERS

We interviewed Heather and Dreyson Beguin on Wednesday, December 19. By Thursday, Medterra had been in touch to offer their support.

“We started this company to create products that help our friends and family, Medterra cofounder J.P. Larsen told us. “Our core value of helping people will always be our number one priority.”

Hartenbach told us he was helping the Beguin family find an attorney, and that Medterra would cover their attorney fees. Larsen seemed confident that they would win the case. Both legal precedent and the newly passed Farm Bill are on their side.

“We feel way more confident now, just the humiliation is taking a toll.”

“The Beguins took every step possible to ensure that they were selling Federally-compliant and quality CBD products,” Larsen wrote. “We hope that this case, such as many others, will be dismissed once the proper facts are conveyed.”

Reached today by Facebook messenger, Heather said she feels relieved.

“We feel way more confident now, just the humiliation is taking a toll.”

WILL NEBRASKA EMBRACE A HEMPY FUTURE, OR REMAIN STUCK IN THE PAST?

Nebraska officials seem unmoved by the landmark hemp legalization signed into law this week, at least according to Suzanne Gage, spokesperson for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson.

“Unless amended by the Nebraska Legislature, all CBD products in Nebraska are still illegal under the Nebraska Uniformed Controlled Substance Act,” Gage told KETV. “The recently passed Farm Bill did not alter existing Nebraska law on this issue at this point in time.”

Statements like these make Gunhee Park afraid that his state is going to miss out on a billion dollar industry, along with hemp’s numerous other benefits.

“For our state to so staunchly say no, especially being an agricultural state, is confounding.”

Although Medterra is stepping up to support the Beguins, they’ll still have numerous additional expenses to deal with in the aftermath of their arrests and the closure of their business.

A close friend, Melinda Walsh, established a GoFundMe fundraiser to support Heather and Dreyson Beguin. Ministry of Hemp donated, and we encourage our readers and others in the hemp industry to help out if they can.

Both Heather and Dreyson will return to court later this month for preliminary court hearings. We’ll continue to update this story as it develops.

1 Comment on UPDATE: Drug Charges Against Nebraska CBD Shop Owners Dropped

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