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.
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)
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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. (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.
“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. 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:
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:
Both of the men from our company have been bailed out. We haven't got an update from the trucking company, but according to the news, the 2 truck drivers can't afford bail.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
One of Courtney Moran’s most recent court cases protected the right to send hemp seeds by mail.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.’”
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.”
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.
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 (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.)
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.
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.
Just signed into law today by Pres. Donald Trump, the 2018 Farm Bill completely removes hemp and anything made from hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Here’s our first look at what this means for the future of American hemp growing.
The United States just legalized hemp.
Pres. Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, earlier today. This omnibus bill includes numerous programs and policy changes, not all of which are related to agriculture. For hemp supporters and industry professionals, it’s a cause for celebration. Hemp is now out of reach of the Drug Enforcement Administration and, with a few notable exceptions, closer to being treated like any other crop.
“It’s been a long time coming and a lot of people have put a lot of effort in to get [legal hemp] to happen,” said Courtney Moran, founding principle of Earth Law, LLC, a firm that specializes in hemp law.
Spearheaded this year by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the hemp legalization amendment was inspired by previous efforts from Rep. James Comer, and decades of advocacy work by hemp supporters nationwide. Legalizing hemp had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Legislators softened the most problematic clause in the amendment, which bans some people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry, during negotiations between the two chambers.
One remaining uncertainty is CBD oil, the massively popular healing supplement made from hemp. Now out of reach of the DEA, negotiations with the Food & Drug Administration over the supplement’s legality could be complex.
Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the return of legal hemp in the U.S. could bring massive benefits to the budding hemp industry, to everyday people, and to the planet.
“We’re feeling terrific but the battle is not over,” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry advocacy organization. “We’ve got state laws that we need to deal with, we’ve got the FDA issues looming.”
Legalizing hemp in the U.S. marks a major change for American agriculture itself. We expect to cover numerous aspects of this law in the coming days, but this article offers an overview of the major changes and what we can expect next from legal hemp in the United States.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP REMOVED FROM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT
Hemp in all its forms — whether used as food, medicine, or textile — represents one of the first crops domesticated by humans. Then, the war on drugs brought about negative associations with psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) that spilled over onto hemp, marijuana’s close cousin. The result was decades of prohibition in the U.S., broken only for a brief period of hemp growing during World War II.
The 2018 Farm Bill completely removes hemp and anything made from hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.
In 2014, Pres. Barack Obama signed a previous version of the Farm Bill which partially legalized hemp under state-based research programs. In 2017, 19 states grew a total of 25,713 acres of hemp in the U.S. However, laws vary greatly even among hemp growing states. Most hemp is still imported, while a gray cloud of legal uncertainty hung over the industry due to ongoing policies tying hemp to federal drug prohibition.
Until now, the Drug Enforcement Administration argued that industrial hemp is essentially identical to psychoactive cannabis, and therefore a “Schedule I substance” under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances face the strictest penalties for use and are considered to have no benefit to humanity, despite the numerous benefits of all forms of cannabis.
The 2018 Farm Bill completely removes hemp and anything made from hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.
“They have no right or authorization to ever be involved in this again,” Miller told us.
Advocates hope this will improve numerous policies that hurt the industry. Some vendors, especially those selling CBD oil, face legal threats. Hemp businesses routinely struggle to access banking, advertising, and other services. Ari Sherman, president of Evo Hemp, a leading vendor of U.S.-grown hemp foods, expressed his frustration with the status quo.
“We’re the only product in the grocery store that can’t be advertised,” said Sherman.
Attitudes are already changing. Even before being signed into law, the 2018 Farm Bill inspired the Alabama state attorney general to back off from plans to prosecute CBD stores.
LEGAL HEMP NOW UNDER USDA CONTROL
Regulation of hemp will now fall under the USDA, which will set national policies for the crop.
The Farm Bill does allow states to set more restrictive regulations, including banning hemp growing. It also protects the rights of Native American tribes to grow, or not grow, hemp on their lands. However, neither tribes nor states can interfere with interstate commerce surrounding hemp.
“People have been afraid that if they ship [hemp] from Colorado to Washington, what are they going to do in Idaho?” Miller said. Under the new law, “Idaho will still have to let it come through.”
The 2018 Farm Bill protects the rights of Native American tribes to grow hemp, and prevents states from interfering with interstate commerce of hemp and hemp products.
The definition of industrial hemp will remain unchanged from the 2014 Farm Bill. Only cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC will qualify as legal industrial hemp. THC, the main cannabinoid in psychoactive cannabis which makes people “feel high,” occurs in all forms of the plant but in very low levels in industrial hemp. Under current regulations, farmers must destroy destroy the entire harvest if their hemp tests at 0.4 percent or higher.
“As a Kentucky hemp farmer and processor, it is very important to me this law has passed; Kentucky farmers, and farmers across the entire U.S. will now have the ability to grow this versatile crop.” said Brian Furnish, Director of Farming & Global Production at Ananda Hemp in Cynthiana, Kentucky, Sen. McConnell’s home state.
Though the Farm Bill is now law, legalizing hemp won’t happen overnight. Until the Department of Agriculture finalizes its hemp policies, the rules of the 2014 Farm Bill will continue to officially apply.
“We hope [the USDA] look to the guidance of well-developed pilot programs, in particular Oregon and also Colorado and Kentucky,” Moran said. “Look to their guidance and [don’t] make it overly restrictive as the goal is to really open up access to farmers throughout the United States.”
LEGAL HEMP INDUSTRY STILL FACES ‘TRAGICALLY UNFAIR’ FELONY BAN
The most controversial part of the hemp legalization amendment to the Farm Bill was a clause which banned people with felony drug convictions from participating in the industry.
The legal hemp amendment originally passed by the Senate banned anyone with a felony drug conviction from participating in the hemp industry. People like Veronica Carpio, who has been a Colorado hemp grower since 2014 but also has a past psychoactive cannabis conviction, could have been forced out of an industry they helped to create.
Ministry of Hemp was one of the first media outlets to report on this hemp felony ban. Carpio told us that attention from reporters, and subsequent pressure from parts of the hemp industry, resulted in an important change to the new law. Moran told us Sen. Ron Wyden was a strong advocate for a compromise. But the felony ban remains in a modified form.
“I think it’s tragically unfair,” Carpio told us. “I’m fairly devastated over it actually.”
Under the compromise, now incorporated into the final law, the felony ban exempts anyone already growing under a 2014 Farm Bill-compliant state hemp program. Additionally, anyone whose conviction took place more than 10 years ago may grow hemp.
“Why should I, and others that were under the 2014 Farm Bill, why are we getting exceptions?”
Carpio is grateful that her business is not likely to face any interruption, but she still condemned what she sees as an unfair restriction on hemp, which makes it unlike any other crop. She’s also concerned that the ban will disproportionately affect black people, and other marginalized groups, who tend to be arrested for drug crimes more often.
“Why should I, and others that were under the 2014 Farm Bill, why are we getting exceptions?” she asked.
“I know I should be happier about [the compromise] but I’m not, it should have been removed completely.”
In addition, she suggested this clause and others in the bill could create unnecessary government surveillance and monitoring of hemp growers.
Hemp supporters argued that CBD products were protected by the 2014 Farm Bill and other legal precedents, but the DEA often disagreed. Though 2018 Farm Bill explicitly removes any product made from legal hemp from DEA oversight, the FDA regulates anything intended for human consumption. That includes CBD oil.
Moran noted that under the Farm Bill, “the FDA still has the complete authority that they do under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”
So far, the FDA has limited itself to targeting CBD vendors that make illegal health claims about their products. The FDA classifies everyday CBD products as nutritional supplements and bans vendors from claiming hemp extract treats any health conditions.
WILL THE FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION WEIGH IN ON CBD OIL?
“The next step for the hemp CBD industry is that we need to self regulate CBD products to ensure they are safe, well tested, and properly labeled,” said Joseph Dowling, CEO of CV Sciences, maker of PlusCBD Oil, in a statement sent by email.
Many industry experts believe the FDA will face pressure to develop regulations around CBD products with the passage of the Farm Bill. Another factor is the recent approval of Epidiolex, a prescription epilepsy drug made from CBD derived from psychoactive cannabis. The approval of Epidiolex marks the first time the FDA officially recognized the medical value of cannabis. Still, some worry that it could lead to a crackdown on access to over-the-counter CBD supplements.
This is a complex and developing aspect of the 2018 Farm Bill and hemp legalization that we intend to cover in more depth in the future. Until then, CBD consumers should rest assured that their favorite supplement is likely to remain available. With CBD generating millions in profits and benefitting thousands of consumers, the FDA faces immense financial and popular pressure to keep this supplement available.
“The wind is at our back,” Miller said. “The public loves hemp-derived CBD so it’s only a matter of time.”
LEGAL HEMP IS A ‘WIN’ FOR PLANET EARTH
While CBD helps people feel better, and hemp can generate immense profits for both farmers and hemp companies, the benefits of legal hemp go deeper. Hemp can heal the soil, requires almost no pesticides and only moderate watering compared to other crops. Hemp fabric is a more sustainable alternative to cotton, and the woody core of industrial hemp plants can be made into hempcrete, a sustainable building material with numerous remarkable qualities.
While Miller cautioned that hemp is “no panacea,” he noted that Europe is already making increasing use of hemp plastic.
“It’s biodegradeable and renewable,” he said. “Just imagine if that can be replicated on a mass scale what that could mean for the environment.”
“[The environment] is the most important aspect of all of this. … The reason I have been an advocate for the past 10 years and why I have focused my entire education and career on industrial hemp legalization is because this plant can do amazing things for the earth, for the soil.”
Sherman suggested this could be a moment with international significance. Evo Hemp’s attempts to encourage hemp farming in foreign countries often faced resistance from officials afraid of U.S. government retaliation. That could be on the verge of changing.
“All of these countries around the world are going to open up their hemp policies,” he predicted.
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Despite a long history of growing hemp in the UK, by 1928 hemp was outlawed. Legalized again in 1993, organizations like the British Hemp Association are trying to overcome remaining legal barriers to the industry’s success.
There’s a long history of growing hemp in the UK. From Celts that taught women to sew and weave the fibre as early as 373 BC, to its abundance in the Elizabethan era when naval ships relied on hemp sails, rigging ropes and sacks, the crop is a common thread running throughout the history books.
By the twentieth century it had been marginalised, with its many functional uses inextricably tangled up with concerns around the psychoactive parts of the plant. By 1928, hemp was outlawed.
It was illegal to grow hemp in the UK from 1928 to 1993, but advocates say strict regulations still stand in the way of a successful hemp industry.
That ban lasted no less than 65 years with permission to grow industrial hemp only reinstated as a legal activity for license holders in 1993. And crucially, according to members of the newly formed British Hemp Association (BHA), there remain a number of restrictions in place that hamper the huge opportunity for a thriving hemp sector in the country.
HOW MUCH INTEREST IS THERE IN HEMP IN THE UK?
Only launched this year the formation of the BHA coincides with the crop “gaining a lot more traction” in the UK and a growing number of farmers keen to get involved, said one of its directors Rob Kinghan.
A number of factors lie behind this surge in interest, he explained. Not least the rapid growth of the cannabinoid industry in the health and supplement market which has “injected a huge amount of interest back in the industry.” High street retailers, such as health food chain Holland and Barrett, are actively increasing the number of CBD products they stock, while brands such as Coca Cola consider CBD soft drinks and established restaurants market CBD menus.
Prejudices against hemp and all forms of cannabis are beginning to fade in the UK, with 43 percent supporting total legalization of psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) in a recent survey.
All which is significant — not because growing the arable crop requires any associations with the psychoactive elements of the plant — but because it reflects a growing education and awareness among the UK public toward hemp as a whole, and therefore a removal of the prejudices that led to its criminalisation in the first place.
In short, there is “a general awakening of the benefits of hemp as an agricultural crop,” said Kinghan and, as a result, those interested in growing industrial hemp have grown considerably, with some talk of the UK being a prime location for extraction and processing sites. Only regulation stands in the way of a thriving industry, hemp advocates said.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO GROW HEMP IN THE UK?
The BHA formed “to educate, lobby and commit,” summed up its chair Rebekah Shaman.
“Educate on the importance of hemp, lobby the government for changes and to collect industry together so we become one voice.”
In other words, it was set up to bring the rules around hemp in line with a shift in public consciousness of the crop.
“There’s an incredible shift in public opinion, everyone loves hemp,” said Shaman. “In 2007, I was making a hemp porridge and people thought they could get stoned on it. That was 12 years ago and it was a nightmare trying to get hemp out there, nobody wanted to touch it. Now everyone knows about it.”
Farming hemp in the UK remains a tiny industry though, with an estimated 810 hectares (about 2000 acres) under cultivation currently, compared to 33,000 hectares (over 81,000 acres) across Europe.
That’s largely as the legislation around it remains prohibitive, believe the BHA, with the government trapped in a “conservative and regressive licensing system that isn’t flexible or responsive to this changing demand for the hemp industry,” Kinghan said. Applications for licenses, costing £580 (about $740), are now often limited to one year (where previously it was three) and applicants are even required in some cases to prevent full business plans with potential buyers set out for each part of the legal plant. Unsurprisingly that “creates a huge barrier” to new potential entrants to the market.
WHAT CHANGES ARE UK HEMP ADVOCATES CALLING FOR?
Whole plant hemp processing
One of the major changes being called for by the group is a lifting of the restriction that prevents the leaf and flower of the plant from being processed.
Under current regulations on hemp in the UK, farmers are forced to destroy large portions of the plant, while simultaneously the UK imports “millions of pounds worth of CBD” every year.
Already confined to farming hemp for the fibre and the seed, a tightening up in procedure last year now requires growers to physically destroy all other “contraband” green materials on site, said Kinghan, while at the same time the UK imports “millions of pounds worth of CBD” from elsewhere in the world, an entirely legal cannabinoid.
“The money is in the leaf and the flower so by removing that opportunity for extractors and processors we’re having to rely on imports without giving our farmers an opportunity to be part of the gain,” said Shaman. As part of its ‘Whole Plant’ campaign the BHA is set to argue that farmers should be able to sell the leaf and flower to licensed processors instead, removing any concerns around selling direct to the public and subsequent confusion.
Who controls UK hemp?
For Shaman there is then the question of which government department should oversee the crop. Currently, with much of the plant still classed as a controlled substance, it is the Home Office rather than the Department for Environmental Farming and Rural Affairs (under which all other arable crops sit) that takes the lead. With experience in agriculture not housed in the Home Office, she argued, “that is crippling the industry.”
This is an industrial crop that could be turned into bioplastics, bio-diesel or fuel and yet we’re not given an opportunity because it’s not seen as an industrially agricultural crop, it’s seen as a demon crop. While under auspices of the Home Office we can’t move it forward.
We have to take the whole conspiracy away from what hemp is and see it for what it is, a super environmentally friendly crop that has all sorts of industrial applications, and that can help us with our environmental impact as we choke under the dominance of fossil fuels, plastics and so forth.
The British Hemp Association believes that hemp can have a massive positive impact on people in the UK and the planet as a whole, if that government will get out of their way.
That includes, finally, for Shaman and the BHA more stability around acceptable levels of THC, which currently sits at 0.2 percent, down from 0.3 percent previously, following new guidance issued in 2014. “That makes it really difficult to get some varieties grown because the plant naturally produces it,” she said.
IN UK ‘HEMP IS THE NEXT BIG INDUSTRY’
With all this changed both Shaman and Kinghan insist the opportunity for hemp in the UK is huge.
“I think hemp is the next big industry,” said Shaman. “And if we became an industry hub for hemp, creating sustainable products and bioplastics or becoming the supplier for Europe we would start bringing manufacturing back and that creates jobs. Hemp can offer all of that very easily and quickly. And a lot of people want to get involved with it.”
“There’s a real opportunity for UK regulations to lighten with some guidance from experts in the industry to allow many more farmers to grow this crop,” added Kinghan.
“If the government can listen to the needs of the industry we’re chomping at the bit to develop a very wealthy, successful and thriving industry in the UK.”