Hemp Is Legal. What If Cops Don't Care?


The farm bill Congress passed in 2018 brought an end to the federal prohibition of hemp, a variety of cannabis that contains almost no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that gets you high. At the time, many would-be hemp farmers anticipated a bright future of legally growing the plant for use in paper products, rope, construction materials, clothing, and nutritional supplements. Jason Amatucci, founder of the Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition, predicted to Reason that the farm bill would "help to clarify any legal gray areas that federal and state agencies have towards hemp and their end consumer products."

A year later, the hemp industry is withering on the vine for want of clarity. After the farm bill was signed into law, Montana-based Big Sky Scientific LLC was transporting a 6,701-pound hemp shipment from Oregon to Colorado when the truck was stopped by Idaho State Police. The driver attempted to explain that he was not carrying marijuana, but Idaho state law classifies all parts of the cannabis plant as marijuana, making no distinction for hemp.

With the shipment confiscated and the driver charged with felony trafficking, Big Sky tried unsuccessfully to regain its product. Idaho argued that the shipment was not federally protected because Oregon had not received federal approval for its own rules.

This was sadly not an isolated event. In November 2019, New York–based Green Angel CBD had a 106-pound hemp shipment stopped twice by law enforcement. Police in Williston, Vermont, were the first to inspect the product being transported via FedEx Freight. They decided against confiscating it and allowed the truck to continue.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) was less accommodating. Officers in the Empire State ignored the shipping documents and concluded based on looks and a possibly outdated field test that the substance was marijuana. The NYPD asked Green Angel to pick up the shipment at the station and then arrested the owner's brother when he arrived. Police charged him with possession. Then the NYPD bragged about the bust in now-deleted social media posts.

While the charges against Green Angel have since been dropped, the company is still seeking the return of its shipment and has filed suit against the NYPD. Additionally, attempts are now being made to clarify if hemp is truly legal in New York and to differentiate licensing requirements for farmers versus sellers.

This is not what hemp advocates hoped to see after the repeal of federal prohibition. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported in December that hemp farmers are increasingly falling victim to crop theft. Law enforcement should be protecting the rights of producers and sellers in the nascent hemp industry, not trying to destroy it.

NEXT: Brickbat: Maybe You Can Say That

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  3. There was a story here a while back about police arresting a footballer player with cocaine possession when they identified some bird poop on the hood and windshield of his car as cocaine.

    The problem is, you can’t clarify laws enough to overcome stupidity. It’s a wonder these morons don’t routinely stop lettuce delivery trucks or think that cars covered with yellowish pollen during certain times of year must be covered with PCP (Angel Dust).

    1. I have to wonder about that – why were the cops stopping these trucks in the first place? I suspect that somebody tipped off the cops that there was something suspicious about the shipment so the cops went into the situation with the idea that it was marijuana they were dealing with. And when you try arguing with the cops that they’re wrong – well, that’s a failure to respect mah authoritah and that’s a far worse crime than marijuana possession. Now they’re going to have to show you who’s the boss.

      1. The giant logo on the truck was probably a dead giveaway.

        Because people transporting illegal goods typically announce it in big, green, designed-for-maximum-visibility fashion.

        1. Maybe the crooks are trying to hide in plain sight. Don’t question your obligations, citizen. Report all suspicious individuals and fulfill your civic duty!

          1. You seem suspicious to me. Authorities have been notified. Black helicopters are on their way.

      2. Well, I was wrong – they shipped it using FedEx, and FedEx called the cops. When the Vermont cops wouldn’t make the bust, they drove it straight to the NYPD station instead of making the delivery.


        These guys should probably be suing FedEx, too.

        1. According to the article, they are considering a suit against FedEx.

    2. 1. Cops should not be “arresting” everyone. A simple court summons is sufficient for many non-violent “crimes”.
      2. The US Constitution nor any state constitution gives government the power to outlaw products or services. Drugs laws are unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

      1. Two things we can agree on!

      2. And 3. states don’t have the power to regulate interstate commerce, which this was. That cop needs to go to prison, and courts need to throw out any immunity that might stand in the way.

    3. *you can’t clarify laws enough to overcome wanton malice and an ingrained fetish for unfettered authoritarianism

    4. people who grow tomatoes are often targeted by cops who are to stupid to know the difference. they visited my friends dad two times in one year and he hates pot but this pisses him off to no end.

      1. That’s absolutely true!
        My Father raised organic vine ripened tomatoes commercially and found cops rummaging around and damaging his greenhouses, without warrants, on more than one occasion.
        When you’re a retarded hammer, everything looks like a nail!

        1. When my pneumatic nailer went retarded, it looked like I couldn’t nail.

          Then I replaced the broken hose.

    5. https://www.newsweek.com/darnell-byrd-mcpherson-mayor-lamar-south-carolina-hate-crime-pollen-spray-1349289

      “The mayor of a South Carolina town believed she was the target of a hate crime after cars belonging to her and her husband were dusted with a mysterious, “yellow, sticky substance.”

      Local and state police investigated the claims made by Lamar Mayor Darnell Byrd McPherson, who reported that on February 7 at 10 p.m. local time, someone sprayed her 2017 Symphony Silver Hyundai Elantra Sport and her husband’s soft-top 1998 Buick Roadmaster with a residue outside of their home.

      “I likened it as a hate crime because No. 1, there’s a history in our town of Lamar,” the volunteer mayor of the town with approximately 980 constituents, said.

      “It ignited some fear in my spirit,” she said. “My God, who would do that?

      “It was something; it was just unnerving to me.”

      She explained in the interview with Newsweek that there were no words or symbols drawn on the cars. The cars were parked in the street near the end of the couple’s driveway, a block and a half from Lamar’s downtown.

      “To me that was the message,” she said.

      The mayor is hard-pressed to understand why she was targeted.

      “I have a good reputation,” she said. I have never been subjected to something like this.”

      Darlington County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Robby Kilgo explained that an investigation was opened to determine what the substance was on both cars.

      “We found it to be pollen,” Kilgo explained in an interview with Newsweek. “There was no reason for us to collect a sample.”

      Kilgo explained that once the mayor was intent that she had been attacked, the local agency referred the matter to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division or SLED.

      “Due the suspicion from her of it being a hate crime, we couldn’t say no,” he said.

      The report added that the mayor also had “a possible suspect in mind at the time” of the incident.

      A SLED spokeswoman informed Newsweek that after receiving the report, the decision was made against launching a probe.

      “We reviewed the incident report, but we did not open a formal investigation,” she said.

      As to why they didn’t open a probe? “Because we did not believe a crime occurred.”

      1. There is trouble in the forest…

  4. If it’s not legal in Idaho, then it’s not legal in Idaho.

    1. Reason writers position seems 5o be that if it is legal at the state level, then ring illegal on the federal level does not matter. If it is legal on the federal level, then it does not matter if it is illegal at the state level. Whatever gets you to legal and the Constitutional logic be damned

      1. I think this particular writer feels that once the Federal law changed, it would have made sense for the state and local police to ignore shipments of non-drug related hemp and focus on actions that actually protect and serve. It’s a naive POV, but a sound one for all of that.

    2. I think the commerce clause could be (for once) properly applied to these cases to make transportation of a federally legal good legally protected.

  5. What is it with this thread? N int comments, three of which are spam!?!

  6. You do realize that hemp farming is the latest manifestation of ostrich or llama ranches, right?

    Hemp idiots have more fundamental problems than stupid law enforcement.

    1. Had a buddy in Texas who sunk his savings into emu ranching. Dude lost his shirt.

    2. Hemp can be made into thousands of products. With llama and ostrich you get 3 or 4.

    3. Oh? Do tell. The industry currently clocking over 350% CAG is idiotic?

  7. Cops are assholes. Water is wet. Meh.

  8. I hope they start making grocery bags out of hemp. i can see the kids now raiding the trash to roll some bags hoping to get high.

  9. While the charges against Green Angel have since been dropped, the company is still seeking the return of its shipment…

    Umm…the shipment was returned. TWO months ago. (With attached paperwork documenting the lack of TCH — the same paperwork the coppers claimed was never submitted.)

    Maybe that news was just too local for Reason.

  10. “The whole good cop/bad cop question can be disposed of much more decisively. We need not enumerate what proportion of cops appears to be good or listen to someone’s anecdote about his Uncle Charlie, an allegedly good cop. We need only consider the following: (1) a cop’s job is to enforce the laws, all of them; (2) many of the laws are manifestly unjust, and some are even cruel and wicked; (3) therefore every cop has agreed to act as an enforcer for laws that are manifestly unjust or even cruel and wicked. There are no good cops.” ~Robert Higgs

  11. Oh, Jesus H Christ, just legalize it already!

    So long as many tens of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens want a product enough they are willing to break the law to obtain it, ….. prohibition will never work.

    1. But what about the children?

  12. It doesn’t matter if the cops seize it in Idaho or the Hemp comes in too high in THC. Law enforcement is determined to stop the evil weed for some reason.

    40% of Arizona’s hemp needs to be destroyed this year. We’ve been telling people it will be difficult to grow hemp outdoors some places because the outdoor marijuana pollen will make hemp too high in THC and the hemp pollen will make the outdoor marijuana too low in THC…

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