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CBD In Spain: Hemp Market Neglected In Spain Due To EU CBD Ban

The absence of CBD oil at Spain’s biggest cannabis trade show reflects turmoil over the legal status of CBD in Spain and throughout the European Union. Find out what we learned at Spannabis 2019.

Recent regulatory changes have cast doubt on the legal status of CBD in Spain and throughout the European Union.

Editor’s Note: This article on CBD in Spain is a continuation of our recent series on CBD and hemp around the world. See more in our articles on CBD in Canada and CBD in Uruguay. -KO

Spain is one of the most progressive cannabis hubs in Europe, with a network of hemp farms. grow shops and cannabis social clubs throughout the country. Spannabis, which took place this year from March 15 through March 17, is the largest cultivator tradeshow in the country. However, the absence of CBD oil there is an example of the regulatory turmoil that’s currently frustrating the European market.

Spannabis is Spain's largest cultivator event attracting a mix of industrial and hobbyist growers as well as cannabis advocates and users. Photo: Dozens of people crowd around the entrance to the Spannabis convention.

Spannabis is Spain’s largest cultivator event attracting a mix of industrial and hobbyist growers as well as cannabis advocates and users. (Photo: Ministry of Hemp / Tasha Kerry)

Unsurprisingly, the concept of using cannabis or CBD as preventative healthcare is still relatively new in Spain, and got little mention at Spannabis where the focus is on grow ops and gadgets. However, at this year’s event, “education” and “social responsibility” were the buzzwords on everyone’s lips, and hemp was making its presence felt in new ways.

IS CBD OIL LEGAL IN EUROPE?

In summer 2018, the EU notified the industry through the Novel Food Act, which places restrictions on any food items not in regular use prior to 1997, that it was no longer legal to sell CBD oil as a food supplement in Europe. In September, the organizers of Spannabis sent out an email announcing that CBD oil for human consumption was banned from the event though hemp seeds and skincare products are allowed in line with EU guidelines.

The EU’s Novel Food Act is not, however, legally binding, leading to disparities across EU countries, as some choose to implement the guideline while others ignore it. The lack of regulation means the market looks different in each country. Switzerland is leading the pack with almost 600 CBD companies selling domestically and abroad. In Italy and Austria, consumers are going crazy for hemp flower as a substitute for tobacco. It’s possible to buy CBD oil in pharmacies or health food shops in some member states, but not Spain.

Due to the EU's Novel Food Act, CBD Oil for human consumption was banned from this year's Spannabis but oils for topical use were allowed. Photo: A collection of topical CBD oils available at the Spannabis expo.

Due to the EU’s Novel Food Act, CBD Oil for human consumption was banned from this year’s Spannabis but oils for topical use were allowed. (Photo: Ministry of Hemp / Tasha Kerry)

“Spain is one of the drivers of the CBD market in Europe, but right now, self-regulation is guiding the industry,” explains Jaime Muñoz of Natureight, a CBD manufacturer based in Holland with offices in Spain, “and everyone continues to sell in spite of the risks because consumer demand is so high. That’s the point, consumers want this product, and the regulation needs to catch up with the market.”

A recent report from the Brightfield Group predicts that the EU CBD market will grow by up to 400% over next five years, meaning it could be worth €1.7 billion (almost $2 billion) by 2023. In line with the recent World Health Organization recommendation to reclassify cannabis, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) is campaigning to update the Novel Food Act. The EIHA presented a proposal for the regulation of the European hemp industry to the EU Commission on March 12th.

“We asked for clear rules to be put in place in order to facilitate the growth of the industry across Europe,” confirms Lorenza Romanese, director of the EIHA, adding, “What’s most important is to let the market choose the competitors. Plus, Europeans naturally prefer to buy locally so if we take the right steps, hemp offers the chance to create cottage industry producing premium local products.”

CBD IN SPAIN: CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

Though the Spanish parties Cuidadanos and Podemos are eager to follow Canada’a legalization model, Pedro Sanchez, Spanish prime minister has made it clear that, for now, he has “bigger problems” than cannabis. On top of that, the Spanish minister for Health, Maria Luisa Carcedo, announced last November that there’s “no scientific evidence” to back the therapeutic use of cannabis.

So while cannabis is fast becoming a wellness niche in other progressive markets, it remains the domain of an underground culture made up of clandestine growers and stoners in Spain, as evidenced by the clouds of smoke choking the halls of Spannabis, and the reggae on blast outside on the patio. CBD is, however, changing the conversation.

Alchimia's offices in Figueres are built with sustainable hemp to create an environment that reflects the company's ethos of Growing Happiness. Photo: An internal view of a modern "green" office building.

Alchimia’s offices in Figueres are built with sustainable hemp to create an environment that reflects the company’s ethos of Growing Happiness. (Photo: Ministry of Hemp / Tasha Kerry)

“In Spain, cannabis users can access THC through the social clubs, so of course that’s what they’re going to choose,” explains Marc Selan, president of Organic Oz cannabis social club, Barcelona. “I’ve started offering CBD strains in my club as a way to talk about the medical benefits of cannabis. Moving forward, it’s all about education.” Selan says novice users typically choose CBD strains while seasoned users want choice.

Issac Sunyer, sales director with Alchimia Web, an online seed bank, agrees that buyers of their CBD strains are a new market. “We’ve built up a catalogue of more 1600 strains to provide consumers with choice, and have been selling CBD strains for five years,” he says. “We see that buyers of CBD strains tend to be older and are not your typical cannabis user, which is why education is so important. Correct product labeling will be key to brand success in coming years.”

Alchimia strikes a chord with both novice and seasoned users by harnessing hemp to switch the conversation on cannabis to wellness. Their offices in Figueres are built with hempcrete and feature a Zen garden to promote the brand’s message: Growing Happiness. Staff are offered flexible working hours, and in-house initiatives like starting the day with a hug are encouraged.

HEMP LEADS THE WAY TO THE WELLNESS MARKET

Swaran Singh of iGreen Swiss, one of many new ventures visiting Spannabis, believes that socially responsibly brands will lead European hemp and cannabis market into the future, as “it’s what the new generation of consumers demand.” He also believes CBD is “just a phase.”

“In two to three years time, 80 per cent of companies will be gone, as the market consolidates,” he says. “Right now, Germany is setting the example for regulation because they have the trust of government and that’s what we need in the rest of Europe to win market confidence.”

“CBD has opened the market but medical cannabis is the real business,” he continues, adding a warning: “But it’s getting expensive to get in. It can take up to five years to yield a good crop, and the final product must be top quality, so it’s a huge investment. At the moment, investors are losing money, which is causing a lot of uncertainty.”

Daniel Musters, founder of CTgrow, a designer of environmental control systems for indoor grow ops, agrees that investors are restless, and governments are making it more difficult to get into the industry now because “they want to make cannabis clean.”

Hemp flower, like this brand for sale at Spannabis, is growing in popularity across Europe as a substitute for tobacco. Photo: Various hemp flower smoking blends available for sale at Spannabis.

Hemp flower, like this brand for sale at Spannabis, is growing in popularity across Europe as a substitute for tobacco. (Photo: Ministry of Hemp / Tasha Kerry)

“What hemp and CBD can do is change the stigma around cannabis,” he says, “And that’s already happening with these new hemp projects that are springing up around Europe. We just designed a system for a project in France, and it’s amazing. The whole community is involved, and it’s transformed the local economy because people are working in the greenhouses, making oils, creams, food, you name it. Hemp has injected new life into this town.”

Back on the pavilion at Spannabis, the presence of hemp is more subdued though there are long lines at the Canna Beer stand and lots of people munching on hemp chips. In the halls, the handful of CBD companies includes Greenmotiv, a Spanish distributor of creams and oils for topical use, and Naturflow, another Spanish company selling hemp balms, both targeting the wellness market.

In amongst the crowd are signs of the health and wellness market that’s coming. Lisa Guerra-Watson is an ex-real estate agent with an autoimmune condition who’s getting into the sector to educate women on the health benefits of a cannabis lifestyle and has created a brand called Seedella.

“This is an amazing event,” she says of Spannabis, “And it’s fun to be able to smoke a joint but I’m surprised by how little focus there is on the health benefits of cannabis here. We need a second event for that.”

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CBD Supply Chain: How the Hemp Industry Is All Connected

Today, we’ll explore how the American hemp supply chain is hampered by inconsistent laws and regulations. From growers to extraction to the final CBD oil you take, there are many steps along the way.

Today, we’ll explore how the American hemp supply chain is hampered by inconsistent laws and regulations.

Most people are unaware of the sheer complexity that goes behind putting their favorite product on the shelves. Exploring those complexities will help show how your favorite CBD product goes from plant to final product and explain the cost of CBD.

“Despite all the obstacles along the path of the hemp industry supply chain, brave individuals and companies have made a way for it to work,” said Keith Butler, co-founder and chief formulator for LifePatent.

LifePatent is one of our favorite CBD brands, so we reached out to Butler for an insider’s view of the process.

WHAT IS A SUPPLY CHAIN, ANYWAY?

To understand the CBD supply chain, we must first consider what a supply chain even is and what it means to a business.

A supply chain is essentially the bones & muscles of a company. The supply chain is comprised of raw material producers, system processors, customer service, truck drivers, factory floor workers. Hell, even the IT guys are part of it. This is why a good supply chain manager or team is essential in a healthy business. Whenever you buy, move, make, sell, service or repair you are using your supply chain. A supply chain is successful when all the links in the chain work together smoothly.

A spoon stirring a coffee cup on a bed of coffee beans. Creating CBD coffee is simple: Simply stir CBD oil into your favorite coffee drink.

One example of a supply chain is the process that goes into creating coffee, from growing to roasting to the final cup in your favorite cafe.

Let’s consider a simple cup of coffee at your favorite cafe. First, farmers grow and harvest coffee fruit (probably somewhere in South America). Further processing happens before shipping coffee overseas or to America. Then drivers, packagers, trucks, fuel and further processing are needed to get it to the companies who order the beans.

Those companies (part of the chain itself), roast, package, test and ship those coffee beans to different retail spots. Then coffee shops grind the beans and make them into a cup of coffee for you to buy.

All of this goes behind making a cup of coffee. Keep in mind this is a simplistic version of the real coffee supply chain. The real thing is much more complex. Depending on size and scope, a business might cover just one aspect of the supply chain — such as coffee roasting. Or they might oversee the entire process from coffee fruit to cafe. The same can be true of the CBD supply chain.

THE HEMP INDUSTRY AND THE CBD SUPPLY CHAIN

The hemp industry is growing at a break-neck pace.

Valued at $3.1 billion at the end of 2017, the industry is currently projected to triple that figure by 2022. When you factor in last December’s Farm Bill, the industry is only going to grow faster. This is not simply an American story as Canada, France and China have successful and fast-growing hemp industries.

The hemp and CBD supply chain begins with hemp seeds. Photo: A macro (high detail) close-up photo of hemp seeds against a yellow background.

The hemp and CBD supply chain begins with hemp seeds.

Truly, the hemp plant is making a resurgence in popularity, mainly due to the robustness, simplicity, and ease of hemp farming. Not to mention over 50,000 different uses of the plant, from car panels in France, to hemp hearts grown in Canada and the massive hemp-textile industry in China.

Butler told us:

“The supply chain begins with the seeds. Today’s hemp genetics can be incredibly complex and equally as complex to acquire. With the explosive growth of the hemp industry, supply side beginning with something as simple as a seed can be a challenge. The companies who have access to the unique seeds and genetics are even harder to find. Once the seeds have been secured the supply side begins with the farming process.”

HEMP INDUSTRY SUPPLY CHAIN REQUIRES MORE INFRASTRUCTURE

This fast-growing industry has attracted many businesses, from retailers, producers, suppliers, farmers and so on and so forth. The supply-chain is growing just as fast as the industry itself. One simply needs to look at all of the different CBD-brands that have seemingly come from nowhere to see the pace of growth in the industry.

“Although hemp is a weed and is considered an easy plant to grow, making medicinal hemp is a little more complicated. The plant will require proper sun, moisture, nutrients and protection,” Butler said. “All of these factors will determine the level of medicinal quality which can be achieved, but the process takes months of time and patience not to mention luck and skill.”

But the support infrastructure necessary to power the hemp supply chain is still lacking in many places.

“Once the flower has been collected by the farmer it needs to be dried, again, a straightforward process which is not so simple. Sure, solutions are being created to simplify the harvesting and drying process, there are even systems which require no drying at all,” said Butler. “But these systems are few and far between leaving most farmers to do it and the old-fashioned way, by hand. Once the harvest has been dried it must be transported to the extraction facility.”

HOW CURRENT REGULATIONS INTERFERE WITH THE CBD SUPPLY CHAIN

But it’s not all rainbows & sunshine as the American hemp industry is seriously hampered by inconsistent federal and state level legislation.

While the aforementioned Farm Bill certainly helps, there are still major grey areas in the classification of hemp. The production of hemp is now federally legal, and the Farm Bill removed CBD from the Controlled Substances Act, but the industry is closely watching upcoming decisions by the FDA.

“Despite all the obstacles along the path of the hemp industry supply chain, brave individuals and companies have made a way for it to work.” — Keith Butler, LifePatent

As a result of incomplete government regulations, and inconsistent state laws and policies, some members of the CBD supply chain still face legal risks, resulting in occasional police raids on CBD stores and arrests of truckers transporting industrial hemp between states.

“Things can get tricky here depending on whether you plant to extract locally, in state or out of state,” Butler commented. “For those who need to transport over state lines to extract a whole new set of obstacles arise in the supply chain.”

He continued:

“Recent seizures of hemp being transported across state lines after the passage of the 2018 farm bill show us that many places didn’t get the memo. And worse yet some states have challenged the legality of hemp even after its removal from the controlled substance act.”

All cannabis businesses still have to operate on a cash-only basis. Banks cannot offer financial services such as bank accounts or business loans. Alongside the clarification of CBD products by the FDA, the financial side of the business is the biggest supply chain obstacle for cannabis and hemp companies to overcome. With continued bi-partisan support of the STATES act, this may soon be fixed.

THE DEFINITION OF HEMP ALSO POSES RISKS TO CBD BRANDS

Butler explained the definition of hemp, pinned to 0.3% THC, also causes issues:

“To date the definition of hemp outside of less than 0.3% THC by dry weight has not been defined causing a whole new challenge for the hemp products producer. When extracted a 0.3% THC hemp plant will create extracted oils which can be in excess of 3% THC now. A number that can be 10 or more times above the legal limit of hemp, but it is from the legal hemp plant but now the oils appear to the world as cannabis despite the fact they are hemp derived. It is this single undefined issue that drives the extraction, formulation and bottling of most hemp products. When the hemp is extracted the THC levels increase as do all the other cannabinoids.”

Third-party lab tests help ensure that the final CBD-infused products consumers purchase remain under the legal limits of THC, but the extraction process puts hemp brands at risk. Butler thinks the issue may need to be solved in the courts:

“Unfortunately, no one in the government has addressed this reality and until someone with the resources required to put up a fight gets stopped and arrested with hemp oil extract the hemp industry will continue in the conundrum of can I transport the undiluted oil from extraction to a different state for bottling and formulation.”

THE INNOVATIVE MODERN AMERICAN HEMP INDUSTRY

“Creativity and ingenuity are the hallmarks of the American people and those in the hemp industry are more akin to the pioneers, blazing the trails to a better future,” Butler told us.

So next time you enjoy your favorite CBD tincture, soft-gel, cream or simple hemp-hearts, keep in mind the complex CBD supply chain necessary to bring that product to your table. The issues above reflect that more legislation may be needed to protect the hemp industry, though fortunately Sen. Mitch McConnell and other hemp supporters in Congress seem to be willing to undertake the effort.

“I know for guys like myself and the people with whom I began this journey with nearly 40 years ago, we found a way and now hemp is legal,” Butler concluded. “For the future I expect the new pioneers will create new trails and find new ways to bring our beloved plant to the peoples of the earth.”

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Shauna’s Law: Kentucky Bill Would Protect Workers Taking CBD

Named for an EMT from Powell County, Kentucky, Shauna’s Law would protect workers taking CBD from being fired due to failed drug tests. It could serve as a model to other states, too.

A proposed law in Kentucky would protect workers taking CBD from retaliation from their employer.

What happens when CBD shows up on a drug test as THC? Hemp-derived CBD supplements have only miniscule amounts of THC, the active ingredient in psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) that makes people feel high. However, imprecise testing methods can sometimes create a false positive result for marijuana use.

This is exactly what happened to Shauna Staton, an EMT in Powell County, Kentucky. Though she was only using CBD for pain relief, her employers accused her of having trace amounts of psychoactive cannabis in her system after a failed drug test. Her employer immediately fired her.

Of course, Staton protested against these allegations. According to Staton, she only used legal CBD products from Bluegrass Hemp Oil. After filing an appeal, Staton got her job back.

Shauna's Law, a bill in Kentucky could protect the rights of workers taking CBD. A woman takes a supplement in an office.

Shauna’s Law, a bill in Kentucky, could protect the rights of workers taking CBD.

However, the fact that using CBD can still pose risks proves there’s a need for change in legislation. And that’s exactly what “Shauna’s Law” aims to do in Kentucky.

HOW SHAUNA’S LAW WOULD PROTECT WORKERS TAKING CBD

The bill seeks to protect workers using CBD products within drug-free workplaces. It lays out an appeal process for all public employees in drug-free work environments who fail a drug test. An employer must allow their employee to complete an appeal as long as the employee:

  • Uses legal industrial hemp CBD products
  • Can provide a purchase receipt of said product
  • Produces test results that correspond with an industrial hemp product (less than 0.3 percent THC)

A bill as such not only helps those who truly need CBD products, but also educates the public on the difference between hemp and marijuana.

SHAUNA STATON HELPED PROTECT ALL WORKERS TAKING CBD

We were lucky to have a discussion with Adriane at Bluegrass Hemp Oil on the matter to get her insight on how Shauna’s Law can change the CBD industry.

“We’ve been here to support her all throughout her pushback,” she told us. She continued:

“But she did it all herself. There’s a lot of determination on her part and we respect her for it. She didn’t ask for anything from anybody else. She knew what she was doing was right and wanted to fight for the rights for it.”

Bluegrass Hemp Oil warns all their consumers that their full spectrum products will have trace amounts of THC. The legal limit is 0.3 percent. And they warn their consumers of this because Staton isn’t the first to run into trouble with her employer.

“We’ve heard from not only our consumers but consumers of hemp products throughout the U.S. that have had similar things happen to them,” Adriane explained.

While Shauna's Law would only protect workers taking CBD in Kentucky, it could serve as a model to other states. The Kentucky State Capitol building.

While Shauna’s Law would only protect workers taking CBD in Kentucky, it could serve as a model to other states.

According to Adriane, people within Kentucky are aware of the importance of this law. They’ve “come out either on our Facebook page or called us because they want to get really active here within the state and help us. [They want to] call their legislators and explain the importance of passing this piece of legislation.”

SHAUNA’S LAW COULD BE AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHER STATES

The true importance of this bill is the fact that it’s the first of its kind. Though it only pertains to the state of Kentucky, it’s an example for other states who are bound to propose similar laws. Adriane told us:

“If we can get it done here in Kentucky, I absolutely think it would be something great we could advocate for across the other 49 states.”

Adriane suggested other states can use Senate Bill 83 (“Shauna’s Law”) as a model.

She claimed, “It’s a very simple piece of legislation that I think any state can mimic.”

She suggested workers taking CBD may want to inform their employers prior to a drug test. When in doubt, she added, you should request a secondary test which shows the level of THC metabolites.

“In Shauna’s case, she tested positive for 30 nanograms [of THC],” Adriane explained. “That’s a really minute amount.”

Shauna’s Law is unique in what it asks for. We’ll continue to see new laws appearing from state to state since both the hemp industry and consumers need legal protection. As Adriane puts it:

“I think if the hemp industry is going to continue on its upwards rise and CBD products are going to continue to be put on shelves throughout the United States, [Shauna’s Law] is something that needs to be addressed. We have to put something in place that gives consumers the confidence to try these healing products.”

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CBD In Canada: Why Can’t I Easily Get Legal CBD In Canada?

In October of 2018, Canada became only the second country in the world (after Uruguay) to legalize recreational cannabis. However, access to legal CBD products remains extremely limited in our northern neighbor.

In October of 2018, Canada joined a very niche club, becoming only the second country in the world (after Uruguay) to legalize recreational cannabis. However, if you thought that meant the streets would be paved in green leaves up north, you would be wrong.

Canada is divided into provinces that, like the states in the U.S., have their own laws and regulations separate from federal rulings. That means that although the Cannabis Act applies to all of Canada, depending on where you live your ability to purchase cannabis may differ. As the law rolled out some infrastructure problems made the transition a little bumpy, with supply chain issues and confusing regulations. When it came to accessing CBD products, in particular, consumers were really confused.

WHAT IS CBD?

If you looked at a cannabis flower or leaf underneath a microscope you would see hundreds of tiny little hairs sprouting up called trichomes. Compounds of cannabis, called cannabinoids are produced and stored on the plant’s trichomes. There are over 100 different cannabinoids including THC and CBD. THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the compound in psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) that makes people feel “high.”

CBD, in contrast, has no psychoactive effect and instead has been embraced for a range of medical and therapeutic uses. Used in the drug Epidiolex, it is prescribed and sold at great cost to treat epilepsy. As interest has grown a huge range of products have come onto the market exploding in popularity, crossing genres from wellness products to skincare, to beverages.

An activist holds a "Cannabis for Canada" sign at a 420 celebration. Despite legalization of recreational cannabis, it's still difficult to obtain legal CBD in Canada.

In October 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”).

IS CBD LEGAL?

This is where things get tricky. CBD has had a complicated journey towards legislation in the U.S. with different states determining it to be either legal or illegal, with the final say often coming down to how it was produced. CBD derived from hemp has generally been considered permissible while CBD from marijuana has not.

With the passing of the Farm Bill, it was thought that all hemp derived CBD would be totally legal but a press release from the FDA threw more confusion into the mix with a warning that CBD cannot be added to foods, that health claims would be rigorously tested, and a suggestion that in the future they would “consider whether there are circumstances in which certain cannabis-derived compounds might be permitted in a food or dietary supplement.”

One of the sticking points seems to be that although there are studies showing CBD can alleviate feelings of social anxiety, and that it reduces inflammation and works as a pain reliever, medical claims made by CBD producers and manufacturers are untested and not regulated federally.

As reported by Ministry of Hemp, in some states CBD products are sold out in the open in major grocery chains and yet in other states, people are still being arrested for selling CBD products.

AN OVERVIEW OF LEGAL CANNABIS IN CANADA

The new official rules in Canada allow members of the public to possess and share up to 30 grams of legally acquired cannabis and grow up to 4 plants per residence for personal use. That provision that the cannabis must be “legally acquired” states that it must come from an approved provincial or territorial retailer. It’s also of note that in the official announcement mentions of CBD products specifically are missing.

The Cannabis Act states that “Other products, such as edible products and concentrates, will be legal for sale approximately one year after the Cannabis Act has come into force and federal regulations for their production have been developed and brought into force.”

It seems that the Canadian government is going with a soft launch focusing on psychoactive cannabis containing THC with plans to address CBD and other cannabis products at a later date.

A photo of an altered Canadian flag flying against a blue sky. The typical maple leaf is replaced with a hemp or cannabis leaf.

After Uruguay, Canada is the second country in the world to legalize recreational use of cannabis. However, legal CBD in Canada remains difficult to come by.

Coupled with this slow rollout is the fact that government officials and lawmakers have not made a distinction between products containing THC and CBD, as Trina Fraser, partner at Brazeau Seller Law, in Ottawa, Ontario explained:

“CBD, in and of itself, falls within the definition of “cannabis” in the federal Cannabis Act.  As such, it is regulated just as all other cannabis products containing THC. Hemp farmers can grow hemp for the purpose of CBD extraction, but the plant must be sold to a federally licensed processor to conduct the CBD extraction, and then the CBD is subject to the same rules as all cannabis extracts.”

CANADIAN CANNABIS LAW CAUSES CONFUSION OVER CBD

Fraser explained that there was a proposal to permit natural health products containing CBD, but it seems the process was stalled and never completed.

As CBD products do not have the same effect as THC consumers believe falsely that they are always legal. “There seems to be a pervasive misunderstanding as to the legal status of CBD,” said Fraser.

“Mary” from Ottawa [name changed to protect from possible prosecution] is one such confused consumer. She uses CBD to control her anxiety and told us that life without it is immeasurably worse. “I really need my CBD products, they help to keep me relaxed and to deal with symptoms of PTSD, but I really don’t understand whether or not I am allowed to legally purchase them. I order offline from a US company and they mail it to me. I have always received it with no problem, but I find I am anxious until I get my package,” she said.

WHAT ARE LICENSED PRODUCERS?

Steven Looi, Director of Origination at White Sheep Corp and an industry expert from Toronto said that “CBD is treated the exact same way that THC is treated, in fact, all cannabinoids receive the same treatment in Canada. CBD is illegal unless it comes from a licensed producer.”

Health Canada claims that to become a licensed producer in Canada applicants must go through a screening process that is the toughest in the world for cannabis producers.

Consumers cannot legally purchase cannabis from any other producer.

“I really need my CBD products, they help to keep me relaxed and to deal with symptoms of PTSD, but I really don’t understand whether or not I am allowed to legally purchase them.” — “Mary,” a Canadian CBD consumer

According to Statistics Canada there are over 100 licensed producers registered in Canada, although there may not be that number currently producing and selling their products.

Only those people with a prescription for medical marijuana can purchase CBD and only through companies authorized by the MMPR — the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations. Of those 100 licensed Canadian producers, only 23 have been registered under the MMPR and are able to sell directly to the public. Therefore legally purchasing CBD in Canada, even if you have a prescription, can be very difficult.

CHANGE IS COMING FOR CANADIAN CBD CONSUMERS

Changes are coming soon though in conjunction with ongoing public consultation, slated to be completed by the end of 2019. “All sorts of new product types will enter the legal marketplace and permit the legal sale of many products that are currently only available illegally,” said Fraser.

A vial of CBD oil and the flowery top of a hemp plant sit on a wooden tabletop. Experts expect access to legal CBD in Canada will improve in the coming year.

Experts expect access to legal CBD in Canada will improve in the coming year.

However, although it may seem that all of this uncertainty will be ironed out by years end, purchasing CBD in Canada will still require effort, despite the new laws. Legal CBD products will continue to only be available through authorized retailers and products will carry security features on the packaging like cigarettes and alcohol. There will also be strict limitations in place in terms of the health claims producers can make. Health Canada follows the legislative lead and also makes no distinction between CBD from hemp or marijuana.

Looi pointed out that “For folks going the legal route for a CBD, legalization will give them greater access, and more products. For folks that always sourced their meds in the black market, not a whole lot has changed.”

Once edibles and other cannabis products are legalized Looi said Canadians will have access to some of the same types of products that are currently flooding the American market.

“Canadians will have better access to a proliferation of CBD products. Marketing, storytelling and promotion will encourage many new consumers to purchase products featuring CBD,” he said.

As with any emerging industry, there are certain to be teething problems both in Canada and the United States. Unfortunately for CBD users in Canada, the much longed for legalization has not automatically made CBD accessible for all.

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Despite Cannabis Legalization, Access To Legal CBD In Uruguay Is Challenging

Access to CBD in Uruguay remains difficult, despite the South American country’s overall progressive leadership on cannabis law reform. That could be starting to change this year.

Access to CBD in Uruguay remains difficult, despite the South American country’s overall progressive leadership on cannabis law reform.

December 2018 marked five years since cannabis became legal in Uruguay. After Law 19.172 was approved — enabling the State to regulate the cannabis supply chain, from growth to trade – Uruguay seems to have founded a true benchmark in the world, becoming the very first country to legalize recreational and medical cannabis.

Taken under Pepe Mujica’s government – which was considered a role model for leftists in Latin America – this brave step towards regularization represented more than a juridical benchmark. By walking through the wooded capital of Montevideo, it is possible to realize that the legislation has also set a new moral paradigm in the Uruguayan society.

It is not rare to spot a family smoking together at the ramblas (Montevideo’s riverbanks), or even turn the TV on and unexpectedly come across a popular morning show discussing the benefits of cannabis with its audience. The stigma around cannabis definitely belongs to the past.

Progressive in several other aspects (such as legal abortion, affirmative action for the trans community and gay marriage), Uruguay’s policies may sound ideal to many people. But with regards to cannabis, the implementation of Law 19.172 still faces substantial issues: the pioneer country in legalizing marijuana still moves slow when it comes to regulated medical cannabis and legal CBD products.

CANNABIS LAW REFORM BEGAN IN 1970S

Although it was only with Law 19.172 that Uruguay gained a comprehensive, effective legal instrument for the regularization of cannabis, the country first adopted a more tolerant posture towards drugs in 1974 – curiously, during the Uruguayan Military Dictatorship. Over forty years ago, the Law 14.294 already exempted from legal penalty all the individuals carrying, using, or giving away up to 40 grams of marijuana.

Damian Collazo, a grower with CLUC, one of Uruguay's first cannabis clubs, examines plants in their cannabis farm. Although recreational cannabis is legal, access to CBD in Uruguay is limited. CLUC cannot legally sell CBD products.

Damian Collazo, a grower with CLUC, one of Uruguay’s first cannabis clubs, examines plants in their cannabis farm. Although recreational cannabis is legal, access to CBD in Uruguay is limited. CLUC cannot legally sell CBD products. (Photo: Ministry of Hemp / Beatriz Miranda)

By 2012, when Pepe Mujica’s cabinet presented to the Congress the first draft of Law 19.172, the pro-cannabis discussion had already gained sufficient ground. In 1998, Law 17.016 allowed citizens to consume a somewhat larger amount of marijuana (compared to 1974); in 2000, President Jorge Batlle assumed a pro-legalization position; and in 2010, the Congressman Lacalle Pou presented a bill allowing citizens to grow cannabis for personal use.

Since 2013, Law 19.172 stipulates that Uruguay’s government is in charge of regulating all the import, export, growth, harvest, production, acquisition, distribution, storage and trade of cannabis and marijuana-derived products.

Diego Olivera is the President of IRCCA’s key board, the Uruguayan Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis. Created with Law 19.172, IRCCA is in charge of supervising the cannabis’ production process, formulating public policies, providing scientific data on cannabis and coordinating scientific cooperation.

Like most pro-cannabis Uruguayans, Olivera evaluates the five-year-period of regulated marijuana as a positive one.

“We are convinced that we adopted the right model,” he said.

On the other hand, he does admit: the regulated medical cannabis market remains a challenge for Uruguay.

LEGALIZATION IN URUGUAY: A MATTER OF PUBLIC SECURITY

Unlike Canada, which legalized medical cannabis in 2001, and recreational cannabis only in 2018 (clearly focusing on a public health strategy), the legalization in Uruguay turned, in principal, to the public security issue.

Olivera said:

“In 2012, 2013, the public discussion evolved very much around security. But this was not an agenda for Uruguay until the 21st century. The public security debate did not really take part of the Uruguayan culture. The cannabis regulation appeared as a response, a strategy to fight the narco-traffic.”

Indeed, Law 19.172 foresees a cannabis regulation strategy that promotes public security, public health and individual rights, altogether. But, due to a greater concern with security, recreational cannabis — and its users, consequently — have been the priority on the last five years. Thus, Uruguayans still wait for a more democratic access to regulated medical cannabis.

Today, Uruguay offers three legal options for the access to recreational marijuana: buying up to 40 grams out of four weed varieties (with higher or lower THC levels), offered at 17 authorized pharmacies; growing up to 6 cannabis plants at home; or becoming a member of one of the 114 cannabis clubs. On the other hand, a patient who suffers from refractory epilepsy, for example, can only find one legal CBD product at Uruguayan pharmacies: Epifractan.

Although Law 19.172 was approved in 2013, Epifractan, a Cannabidiol extract, sold in concentrations of 2 percent and 5 percent, has only been on the market for a year. The only available CBD medicine in the pharmacies, however, is financially inaccessible to many of its users (the 5 percent formula costs up to 200 dollars).

For purchasing imported CBD products, Uruguayan patients have to clear several bureaucratic hurdles, like obtaining a special prescription and an authorization from the Health Ministry. Beyond that, shipping these medicines is still quite expensive, and the government doesn’t provide any bureaucratic or financial assistance for this transaction.

With so many obstacles to access regulated medical cannabis, an unofficial market of CBD-derived products has developed in Uruguay in the last years. Sustained mainly by a network of friends and relatives, these users, or patients, represent over half of the medical cannabis’ consumer market in Uruguay.

CBD IN URUGUAY: MOST PEOPLE BUY UNAUTHORIZED OR HOMEGROWN CBD

According to a research by Monitor Cannabis Uruguay, two thirds of users access CBD-derived products (oils, lotions, etc.) by buying it from unauthorized artisanal producers, by receiving it as a gift (from friends or relatives) or by producing it from their homegrown marijuana.

Maria José Milles and Damián Collazo have been involved with the production of cannabis at least since 2014, when, along with approximately 20 other people, they founded CLUC (“Cultivando Liberdade Uruguay Cresce”, which means “By Growing Freedom, Uruguay Grows”). CLUC is one of the first registered cannabis clubs in Uruguay.

Although none of them knows people who buy Epifractan in the pharmacies, they do know Uruguayans who produce artisanal Cannabidiol oil themselves.

“We cannot sell homemade CBD oil to other people, but we produce it ourselves and give it as a gift to people we know … I personally make it for myself, but also for my mother and a few friends,” said Milles, who is in charge of CLUC’s administration and accounting.

Gardener and agronomist, Damián Collazo takes care of the seeding of ten different cannabis varieties at CLUC. According to him, there are CLUC members who also produce CBD oil to treat serious diseases.

“One of our club managers produce it and give it to her mother, who has cancer,” he told Ministry of Hemp.

For Diego Olivera, there is a mistaken presumption among users that cannabis is a “magical substance,” capable of healing almost everything. He also warns for the risk of self-medicating with a product that was not tested, and whose efficacy and safety isn’t guaranteed.

Diego Olivera, President of IRCCA, in his office with a thermos and mug of mate. IRCCA regulates cannabis in Uruguay, and Olivera anticipates a much greater diversity in hemp and cannabis products in 2019.

Diego Olivera, President of IRCCA. IRCCA regulates cannabis in Uruguay, and Olivera anticipates a much greater diversity in hemp and cannabis products in 2019. (Ministry of Hemp / Beatriz Miranda)

CANNABIS & HEMP IN URUGUAY: A HORIZON FOR FREEDOM

The year of 2019 promises to be better for CBD in Uruguay and medical cannabis users overall. In November 2018, Canadian group Aurora (one of the licensed companies that produce cannabis) inaugurated Uruguay’s first production center for medical cannabis. Aurora’s medicines are expected to be launched in February this year. What’s more, 32 groups already have IRCCA’s authorization to research and produce medical cannabis.

Eduardo Blasina is the director of Montevideo Cannabis Museum, founded in 2016 as an effort to demystify cannabis. Also, he is a partner of Symbiosis, one of the first companies to have won the government’s bid to produce marijuana. Right now, Symbiosis is working on two medical products: a refined CBD oil and a “raw” (the whole extract). They hope to launch both near the end of 2019.

At the moment, Uruguayan political party IR — a member of Frente Amplio, the left-wing political coalition that is in power right now — is working on a bill that reclassifies CBD-oils as phytotherapeutic compounds, instead of medicines. Inspired by Colombia’s and Czech Republic’s laws, the bill aims to facilitate the access to regulated medical cannabis products by allowing smaller producers to become regular sellers.

Considering that, so far, only international companies have been able to meet Uruguay’s rigorous requirements to produce medical cannabis, this bill could mean a more democratic official CBD market.

Diego Olivera is optimistic about the future of medical cannabis: “This year will clearly witness advances in research. We hope to prioritize accessibility, turn the market more dynamic, and invest in other cannabic industries, such as food and cosmetics,” he said.

Despite all the remaining challenges, Blasina also thinks that the implementation of Law 19.172 is at a good pace. He is happy with the legislation, and supports that Uruguay can’t miss the great opportunities ahead:

“More than cannabis tourism, we should invest in ‘tourism of freedom,’ which stands for the idea ‘you smoke if you feel like.’ As a progressive country, we really have the potential to become a multicultural society.”

For more information about cannabis & CBD in Uruguay:

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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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Fighting Back After Facebook Shuts Down CBD Pages

Facebook shut down dozens of CBD pages during the holidays, wrongly claiming they sold “prescription drugs.” Representatives of Joy Organics waged a successful campaign to get the pages reinstated.

Facebook shut down numerous CBD brand pages in December, claiming they were selling prescription drugs, rather than natural supplements made from legal hemp.

Right before the holidays, Fort Collins, Colorado resident Joy Smith had attempted to log into her CBD products Facebook page for Joy Organics. However, she was surprised to find herself denied access. She contacted her daughter, Hannah Smith — the company’s social media brains — as a means of solving the problem.

However, Hannah found that the Facebook page was officially unpublished and flagged for “promoting the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals.”

Even though CBD supplements are legal, Facebook commonly mistreats representatives of the newly emerging hemp market. In fact, Kit O’Connell, editor in chief at the Ministry, is banned from using Facebook’s ad platform due to his hemp advocacy efforts.

A person logs into Facebook on a cell phone and laptop in a cafe, with a coffee cop and sauce in front of them. After Facebook shut down CBD pages, representatives of Joy Organics forced the social media giant to change its tune.

After Facebook shut down CBD pages, representatives of Joy Organics forced the social media giant to change its tune.

We reached out to Hannah in hopes of finding out more about her experience and what social media platforms such as Facebook will do in order to prevent these false flaggings from happening in the future.

TAKING ACTION AFTER FACEBOOK SHUTS DOWN CBD PAGES

When it all began, Hannah Smith didn’t think too much of it. Her initial inclinations suggested it was all a mistake that Facebook would easily fix through an appeal. Even when Facebook denied their appeal, they remained optimistic.

“Both me and my brother figured we’d just wait it out,” Smith explains.

“We just sent some emails and assumed they’d get on it. We figured they were dealing with a lot since it was the holidays, so, we didn’t think too much of it.”

However, Smith was soon met with a harsh reality: Facebook deliberately took down the page, claiming that it was encouraging prescription medication sales. Hemp-derived CBD oil is widely available over-the-counter as a nutritional supplement, both online and in many brick-and-mortar stores. After learning of Facebook’s real motivations, Smith took action.

“I created a petition as soon as I found out other CBD companies were going through the same thing,” she proclaims. “I thought it would be advantageous for us and the industry as a whole if I made the petition about more than just our Facebook.”

After sharing the petition with other hemp-derived CBD pages which Facebook had shut down, Smith was able to obtain 4,500 signatures. “Everyone was really excited to be doing something. To be taking action.”

FACEBOOK SHUTS DOWN CBD PAGES DURING HOLIDAY SEASON

This shut down had affected about three dozen hemp-derived CBD Facebook pages, both within the United States and across seas in the United Kingdom.

As mentioned, this happened just before the holiday season. Though most of Joy Organics sales are made on-site rather than online, there are CBD companies out there who sell most of their products over the internet. Social media plays a key role in online marketing. Facebook shutting down CBD pages during such a vital period of time could have severely affected sales.

Graphic shows social media app icons on a smartphone screen, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. While shutting down CBD pages was an extreme move, Facebook and other social media services routinely block hemp and CBD brands from their advertising platforms.

While shutting down CBD pages was an extreme move, Facebook and other social media services routinely block hemp and CBD brands from their advertising platforms.

Still, that isn’t to say the shut down didn’t have an impact on Joy Organics. Though their sales remained fine, they weren’t able to connect with their community. As Smith puts it, “it more hurt us in our ability to build credibility.”

Despite restoring their pages, Facebook hasn’t given a satisfactory explanation as to why these shutdowns occurred.

DID FACEBOOK SHUT DOWN CBD PAGES OVER FDA MEMO?

“Now, this is all speculation,” Smith begins.

“But there’s something about this that just doesn’t feel right for me. CBD is — in Facebook’s guidelines — you can’t buy ads on Facebook if you’re selling it. So, they’re aware of what CBD is. There are restrictions for CBD and restrictions for marijuana. So, I’m pretty sure they know the difference between the two.”

With that in mind, Smith finds one aspect of this whole scenario to be truly strange. This all happened right after the Farm Bill went through. During the initial days after hemp was fully legalized, searches for CBD skyrocketed.

“After the farm bill went through, there were so many new people looking for CBD resources,” Smith stresses. “The fact that this happened after the Farm Bill was signed is suspicious to me because it coincides with a huge spark of interest in the CBD industry and CBD products.”

Interestingly, Smith notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement shortly after the Farm Bill went through claiming CBD is illegal in food products. Some hemp advocates speculate Facebook saw that statement and decided to shutdown CBD pages. Still, Smith doesn’t believe this is the true root of the problem which occurred, especially after Facebook’s history of cracking down on hemp and CBD brands.

We’ll have more coverage of the FDA memo and what it means for CBD in an upcoming article.

WE CAN EXPECT MORE MISUNDERSTANDINGS ABOUT HEMP

It should be expected that problems will continue to come about when it comes to the hemp and CBD industry. The unfortunate truth is the public still has trouble separating hemp from psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”). Many people are still learning about the benefits of CBD.

According to Chavie Lieber, a senior reporter at Vox, “Facebook said it did not believe hemp or CBD companies violated any of these terms, but it did not further explain why its team had removed these pages in the first place.”

Though that may be true, it’s noteworthy to mention Smith had a very difficult time trying to resolve the issue. She could barely find a customer service email to contact.

A hemp bud, and two bottles of CBD oil sit on a wooden tabletop. Unfortunately, CBD and hemp brands will continue to face problems online until the stigma around the plant disappears.

Unfortunately, CBD and hemp brands will continue to face problems online until the stigma around the plant disappears.

“Facebook has a lot of places for people to go to prevent them from contacting customer service; forums and FAQs and stuff like that,” Smith explains.

Luckily, Joy Organics hasn’t seen any similar problems on other social media platforms.

At the end of the day, the hemp industry should expect more barriers. It’s going to take time for the public to understand what CBD and hemp truly are and the benefits they offer society.

Until then, Smith remains optimistic. “We hope when the laws change, the stigma will change.”

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Hemp By Mail: Recent Court Rulings Enable Mailing Industrial Hemp

Recent court rulings make it clear that it’s fully legal to send hemp by mail. We spoke with Courtney Moran of EARTH Law, LLCabout her court battles over shipping hemp.

Recent court rulings make it clear that it’s fully legal to send hemp by mail.

History has been made in recent weeks. With industrial hemp becoming federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, new rules and regulations surrounding the industry will begin to appear. Another important change? New rulings from the Judicial Officer and the Federal Court for the U.S. Postal Service now allow shipments of industrial hemp — specifically, hemp-derived CBD derived products — through USPS.

Courtney N. Moran, founding principal of EARTH Law, LLC, has vigorously fought multiple battles for these rights. Still, as can be expected, there remain problems and misunderstandings about legal hemp. And Moran will have to continue her battle until these issues are fully solved.

Point of view photo of a person mailing a cardboard box hands it off to a worker. Although there may continue to be court challenges, recent court rulings clearly establish a solid precedent making it legal to send hemp by mail.

Although there may continue to be court challenges, recent court rulings clearly establish a solid precedent making it legal to send hemp by mail.

We recently had the opportunity to have a conversation with Moran in which we sought to learn more about these battles, their resolutions, and what people can expect when attempting to ship hemp in the future.

THE LEGAL BATTLE OVER SENDING HEMP BY MAIL

After Moran received complaints from clients entailing how their hemp products weren’t being shipped to their respected destinations, she filed multiple cases. The goal of these cases was to establish a federal judicial precedent which:

  • Defines laws surrounding transportation of industrial hemp.
  • Clarifies the intent of Congress.
  • Halts misinformation and misinterpretations by the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Cases like the recent “KaB, LLC v. USPS” established these necessary precedents. In this case, USPS seized a package of CBD derived from a hemp agriculture pilot program with the excuse, “the parcel [was] emitting an odor of a controlled substance.”

When this case was brought to court, the question arose whether or not “CBD grown or cultivated from industrial hemp pursuant to a pilot program established by Congress under the Agriculture Act of 2014 is nonmailable as a Schedule I controlled substance.”

Moran’s argument was that the hemp was grown in compliance with an agricultural pilot program established under the 2014 Farm Bill. This hemp is exempt from control under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Therefore, the hemp is not a controlled substance and is allowed to be mailed.

There was a lot of legal back and forth. For though it’s confirmed legal to ship hemp in accordance with agriculture programs, there remains much confusion in postal service policy. At the end of the day, the entire country hasn’t woken up from decades of hemp prohibition. Solving this confusion ultimately lies in separating hemp from psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”).

A WIN FOR THE INDUSTRY

Ultimately, the court agreed with Moran’s argument about sending hemp by mail. She won a great leap forward for this industry with this important ruling. Here’s how she described her success:

“I’ve covered 16 cases with the Postal Service,” Moran explained. “All of them had been decided in our favor. And all of those folks either received their packages back already or they’ve gone on their way to be received from the recipient.”

Most recently, on December 11th, Moran won another case which added a new twist to this story. Up until that point, most of the cases she fought for were in regards to hemp-products or hemp-derived CBD. However, this particular case was focused around hemp seeds.

A pair of cupped hands holds a handful of hemp seeds. One of Courtney Moran's most recent court cases protected the right to send hemp seeds by mail.

One of Courtney Moran’s most recent court cases protected the right to send hemp seeds by mail.

Moran added:

“That’s what’s really thrilling about these cases. For the very first time, [we] have a judge upholding the intent of Congress versus the guidance that was put out by federal agencies and clearly reiterating agricultural hemp is exempted and not scheduled.”

PROBLEMS TO CONTINUE

Still, even though these cases establish a precedent for sending hemp by mail,  people shouldn’t expect all problems with the postal service to simply vanish. As mentioned, there’s still plenty of confusion in the public’s perspective. Until more people understand hemp’s legal status and its difference from psychoactive cannabis, cases such as these will continue to appear.

“The US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has law enforcement authority and capability,” Moran tells us. And the truth of the matter is, there are still plenty of people trying to ship illegal marijuana and hemp through the postal service.

With that in mind, Moran informs, “Only this agricultural pilot program hemp is lawful. So, let’s say somebody grew industrial hemp domestically but was not part of a pilot program and did not have their proper registration or license through their state’s authorizing agency — that would not be legal and not be compliant.”

And even for those who are legally growing and shipping it, the problems stem from those who continue to abuse the U.S. Postal Service in an illegal manner. Moran says that people attempting to send illegal products through the mail are causing harm to the people trying to do it right.

YOUR RIGHT TO SHIP HEMP IS DEFENDABLE IN COURT

Luckily, the postal service is developing a standard operating procedure which gives people the authority to legally ship hemp in advance. The goal is to prevent continuous court cases over hemp.

A USPS mail truck parked by the side of the road. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill and Courtney Moran's recent legal victories, the law will protect your right to send hemp by mail.

Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill and Courtney Moran’s recent legal victories, the law will protect your right to send hemp by mail.

Furthermore, with the legalization of hemp just hitting the entire country, new rules and regulations are bound to arise. Just as with psychoactive cannabis legalization in various states, lawmakers are still figuring out how to make this all work. Back in July, California saw a complete shelving of CBD products due to new cannabis labeling regulations. This same uncertainty is almost certain to hit the hemp industry.

However, with people such as Moran defending hemp farmers and distributor alike, we can trust the fight for these rules and regulations will go in the right direction. In terms of this recent win, she proclaimed:

“We’re not intimidated and really look to the letter of the law. And made a very clear determination based on what the letter of the law says and the intent of Congress.”

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Marc Grignon: Hemp Can Help Sustain Native Americans

When you begin to look into the fight for hemp legalization, you start to unearth stories you weren’t expecting to find. That’s exactly what happened when we talked with Marc Grignon and learned about the 2015 police raid on the Menominee hemp fields.

When you begin to look into the fight for hemp legalization, you start to unearth stories you weren’t expecting to find. That’s exactly what happened when we talked with Marc Grignon and learned about the 2015 police raid on the Menominee hemp fields.

Currently, Grignon is the spokesman for Hempstead Project Heart, which raises awareness about the benefits of hemp for everyone including tribal communities. Previously, he worked as  staff assistant for the Office of Native American Affairs under Obama’s Small Business Administration.

Grignon developed a passion for hemp as his tribe’s casino ambitions failed. For years now, the Menominee have been fighting for a way out of dependence on government assistance. For a way to provide their reservation with a sufficient income.

Grignon is one of the 8,700 members of the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin. Their history is believed to span back 10,000 years where they dominated 10 million acres of modern-day Wisconsin and the upper half of Michigan state.

John Trudell, wearing sunglasses, smiles at the camera. Hemp activist John Trudell co-founded Hempstead Project Heart with musician Willie Nelson, before passing leadership of the organization to Marc Grignon in his final days.

Hemp activist John Trudell co-founded Hempstead Project Heart with musician Willie Nelson, before passing leadership of the organization to Marc Grignon in his final days. (Photo: Tara Trudell, used with permission)

Despite the dramatic circumstances of the raid, Marc Grignon remains a steadfast advocate of hemp. We caught up with him recently to learn about how he got involved with hemp and how he believes hemp can help support Native American tribes.

OVER TIME, TRIBAL ATTITUDES TOWARD HEMP HAVE SOFTENED

It was during Grignon’s final semester at college when he began to look into his tribe’s background — studying the language and digging deep into their culture. As he went about this research, a piece of information “fell into my lap,” he told us.

The Menominee have a word called “Shaeqnap” and it means wild hemp. The definition talked about a plant that could grow anywhere from 5 to 8 feet high. The tribe used it for fiber, basket making, bowstrings, and so on and so forth.

Grignon was so fascinated by the discovery, he brought it to the Menominee Language and Culture Commission. They were less enthusiastic about his discovery. When he asked about shaeqnap, they simply insisted, “No. We never used cannabis.”

This was a bit of a blow to Grignon as he’s been a long-time hemp advocate. His goal has been to use the plant to provide the Menominee people with a stable source of income. Though not everyone agreed with this idea, Grignon held a determination which would prove to be worthwhile.

And over time, he said attitudes are shifting. “With the evidence we’ve brought to light, more Menominee cultural people see our future in hemp.”

PLANTING THE SEEDS: HOW MARC GRIGNON GREW HEMP WITH THE MENOMINEE

In the summer of 2015, Grignon was working on an Agricultural and Research Project through the College of Menominee Nation and his tribe. One particular day, a former legislature approached him and asked if he’d be interested in working with hemp. Since the Menominee had just passed a law allowing for the reservation to grow industrial hemp for the sake of research, Grignon was very interested.

Part of the reason for this law was due to the fact the Menominees were trying to get the legal paperwork to start a casino. They fought for twenty years only to have Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s governor at the time, kill the idea.

Grignon saw hemp as holding the possibility of being a “natural economic drive.” He recalled:

“So, I was brought on. We planted on July 7th, 2015. 3 acres. I was kind of in charge of monitoring the plants and taking care of them. I was on weed control and I’d go into the fields and pull them out by hand with other Menominees. That’s how I got into the whole thing.”

MENOMINEE HEMP FACED CONSTANT THREATS FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT

The Menominees took all legal precaution prior in order to make this happen. They informed law enforcement of their laws and the fact that they had plans to grow that cultivation season. However, upon hearing this, the feds felt the need to come out and see the fields.

“There were some strong words between the attorney and my tribal leaders,” Grignon remembers.

“The feds were like, ‘we want you to uproot this stuff.’ And we said, ‘No, man. We abided by our government to government relations where we told you we were gonna do it, we passed the law, we had our community’s input on this law, nobody has an issue with it, and now we’re gonna move forward with it.’”

A densely packed hemp field grows tall under a partly cloudy sky, a forest in the background of the field. Marc Grignon helped legalize hemp in Wisconsin after police raided a Menominee hemp field in 2015.

Marc Grignon helped legalize hemp in Wisconsin after police raided a Menominee hemp field in October 2015. (Photo: Marc Grignon)

Which is just what Grignon did. Nearly three months went by. He and the Menominees continued tending their 3 acres of hemp. Throughout this time, law enforcement sustained their efforts to stop the tribe from cultivating these crops.

OCTOBER 23, 2015: POLICE RAID MENOMINEE HEMP FIELDS

In fact, the tribe had a strong suspicion that they would be raided. Even though they followed all rules and regulations, Grignon says, “It’s a real cluster-fuck when it comes to federal Indian policy and federal Indian laws.”

On October 23rd, just when everything was in full bloom, Grignon drove to the fields to find police dressed in camo, fully armed with automatic weapons. He stood and watched as a bulldozer destroyed all his hard work.

Not only was this a giant blow to the operation, but it was an even bigger blow for the next season’s grow. For those plants contained the seeds the Menominees hoped to plant the following year.

Though Grignon was deeply upset, he wasn’t discouraged. In fact, in the months prior — when the Menominees were anticipating the raid — Grignon had reached out to an activist that would not only change his life but hemp’s future in the state of Wisconsin.

MARC GRIGNON’S HEMP ADVOCACY CONTINUES AFTER MENOMINEE HEMP RAID

This certain someone was John Trudell, a Native American author and political activist. Grignon reached out to Trudell in hopes of saving his 2015 harvest. Less than two weeks after feds destroyed it, he received a call from Hempstead Project Heart in which they wanted to carry out an education campaign.

When Trudell found out about the feds destroying the Menominee’s fields, he was very upset.

“He wanted to set up a legal defense fund and do whatever in his power to help us,” Grignon said. “And we took his help. But two weeks later, his cancer spread and he was taken into hospice.”

Grignon had gotten a phone call explaining this and how Trudell wanted to hire him onto Hempstead Project. Being that Trudell had been an idol of Grignon for most of his life, he felt the need to meet the man. Purely for the sake of discovering what the future held for both hemp and Native American culture.

“I flew out there and met him and he basically told me my reputation was on the line,” Grignon explains.

“When we talk about how screwed Indian country is and how dependent we are on the government, I look at hemp and I see a solution.”

“[He said] if I couldn’t get hemp legal in Wisconsin within a year then I wasn’t the person I say I am … everyone will tell you he’s the most intense individual you’ll ever speak to. And they’re absolutely correct.”

Trudell’s perspective on hemp was that “it couldn’t save us, but it could help us.”

Grignon admits he wasn’t able to make Trudell’s wish come true alone nor within a year. However, with the help of a coalition, he made hemp legal in Wisconsin.

CAN HEMP HELP BRING PROSPERITY TO INDIAN COUNTRY?

During Grignon’s time as a staff assistant for the Obama administratio, he saw many real problems he hopes to solve with hemp. This was during one of the previous times the government didn’t sustain proper funding and, in turn, partially shut down for a period of time.

Grignon saw how this affected Native American tribes who weren’t making big bucks off casinos. He knew those tribes depended on government grants. Not only does Grignon not agree with this, but it frightens him to think the Menominees can lose the ability to finance themselves whenever the government shuts down.

Grignon sees hemp as a way for the Menominees to financially sustain themselves. As a source of sustainable profit which may just bring the tribe back to their original roots.

“When we talk about how screwed Indian country is and how dependent we are on the government, I look at hemp and I see a solution.”

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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.

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