Hemp Farming Legality Update 5/2/19

Idaho State Police Seize 7000 Pounds of Hemp, Company Suing

Federal law may have legalized industrial hemp, but it’s up to the states to decide whether they want the strain of Cannabis sativa containing less than 0.3% THC legalized in their own states. However, does this give states the right to block interstate commerce of hemp?

Idaho Statesmen reports that in January, 7000 pounds of “a green leafy substance” was seized by police, who thought it was marijuana.

Big Sky Scientific, the company that owns the hemp, sued Idaho State Police asking for the release of its industrial hemp and its truck. On Feb. 19, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush denied the release of the hemp, but on Friday determined that the testing results would be made public record.

The hemp originated in Oregon and was en route to Colorado. Big Sky’s lawsuit states:

“The 2018 Farm Bill prohibits states from blocking the transportation of industrial hemp in interstate commerce as Defendants have done,” the lawsuit reads. “Notwithstanding the 2018 Farm Bill, states cannot prohibit the shipment of a legal good through interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause.”

The Commerce Clause is Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the US Constitution giving Congress the power to regulate commerce. The “Dormant Commerce Clause”, according to Cornell Law’s Legal Information Institute:

refers to the prohibition, implicit in the Commerce Clause, against states passing legislation that discriminates against or excessively burdens interstate commerce

Hemp and marijuana, now legally defined as containing below and above 0.3%, still appear very similar. So how are police to know the difference? This lawsuit could have implications for states like Idaho and South Dakota that are still refusing to allow hemp to be grown, sold, and possessed in their borders. If the police will have a potential lawsuit on their hands each time they stop a truckload of hemp, will it give them no motivation to enforce federal and state laws prohibiting marijuana?

When the Commerce Clause was written, the United States had yet to embark on the insane business of banning substances. With all of these complications in place, it’s only a matter of time, even in a country that seems to enjoy slowing progress as a national pass time, that all strains of the Cannabis sativa plant are legal nationally and in every state.

Maybe even before I’m dead, who knows…

Big Sky Scientific, among other things, is asking for its product to be returned so that it can “continue its shipment on to Colorado.” The suit also asks for judgments declaring wrongdoing on the part of the defendants.

Pennsylvania Issues Hemp Farming Permits for 2019

Two hundred fifteen applications to grow hemp have been submitted to Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture before the April 30 deadline, according to TribLive. Previously there was a 100 acre cap on hemp farming, an a restriction on number of applications accepted, but those have been lifted

Pennsylvania has recently become more tolerant in its cannabis policies. Medical cannabis was legalized statewide in 2016. Several of the states cites have decriminalized the possession of cannabis. In Pittsburgh’s city limits, for example, the maximum penalty for possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is $25.

PA Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman is currently on a “listening tour” of all counties to talk to Pennsylvanians about the possibility of legalizing recreational cannabis.

Industrial hemp farming is already underway in the state, implemented in 2018 under the Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program.

Here’s a video of a farmer in Westmoreland County, in Western Pennsylvania, talking about developing CBD rich hemp strains.

Illinois Hemp Growing Permits Now Available

Illinois Governor and Department of Agriculture both have positive things to say about the future of hemp production in their state. Last year Illinois passed its own Industrial Hemp Act.

With the recent national legalization under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp as a commodity is in limbo. No insurance is yet available on the crop until Congress acts, putting hemp farmers at risk. And Herald & Review writes:

Markets for the crop, however, are still in the development stage. It is not traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and there are no local marketplaces to sell the crop in the same way farmers sell wheat, corn or soybeans at local grain elevators, although [Agriculture Dept. Director] Sullivan said there are some available in surrounding states.

Sullivan added he expects more markets to emerge as the industrial processing side of the business begins to grow.

“Once we know how many people are growing it, that’s going to lead to the processing side of it,” he said. “We have to grow it before we can process it.”

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