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Hemp's Need For a Level and Clear View of the Playing Field

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Hemp is legal in all 50 states, correct? 

Federally yes, but not on a state level. Several states, including South Dakota, have banned the production of hemp for various reasons. This includes the flimsy reasoning that law enforcement might not be able to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana. 

According to the Denver Post, Robert Herzberg was arrested in South Dakota last summer while transporting hemp from Colorado to Minnesota. The Denver Post went on to say the trooper found sacks of raw material that looked and smelled like marijuana, and field tested positive for THC. 

The Rapid City Journal continued the story later this year when the outcome of Herzberg's case was announced. While he pled guilty to ingesting cocaine and marijuana, the charge containing transportation of the hemp (classified as marijuana under South Dakota state law) was dropped. 

This story caught my attention for several reasons. The first and foremost being compliance confusion. The second being a lack of education for all parties involved. 

While hemp is legal on a federal level, hemp is still classified as marijuana under South Dakota state law. This gave rise to confusion and ultimately dropped the transportation charge Herzberg faced.

In addition to confusion on laws, the next question that came to my mind as a compliance specialist was, "Where was the paperwork noting the biomass was hemp and not marijuana?" The required paperwork can differ from state to state, but most commonly will require a driver to have an approved transfer form detailing what they are transporting (along with its origin and destination locations) and a copy of the grower's license. For any questions on exactly what paperwork you would need, it is always best to speak with the department that regulates your state's hemp program.

Then there is the lack of education for each party involved. The party shipping the biomass should have verified the route the truck would take, especially since they were crossing state lines. While that might seem like overkill, it could have helped avoid this entire unfortunate situation.

Finally, we come to Mr. Herzberg himself. While I am not a legal professional, I am familiar with what can happen when you are faced with a situation similar to his. Each state's laws vary, but the best thing to do in that situation is to ask for a lawyer and shut the hell up. You are your own worst enemy and as the saying goes, anything can and will be held against you in a court of law.

While what happened to Herzberg was unfortunate, it shed some light on a very real problem within the hemp industry. Without a level and clear understanding of the playing field, this industry will continue to fall prey to the outdated "devil's lettuce" stereotype.


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