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Recently, law enforcement officials seized more than 180 pounds of hemp in South Carolina as it was being transported to Texas. The hemp was cultivated by a company licensed to grow hemp in North Carolina.
At the time of the seizure, the company’s license and the test results were included with the shipment. Nevertheless, police seized the hemp, which was valued at roughly $30,000.
Asked for comment regarding the seizure, the local police chief said, “We do not want to withhold anything that’s legal from anybody. But the way it’s packaged and the way the investigation has gone up to this point we wanted to do our due diligence in making sure that it is what it’s said to be.”
The federal government, as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, prohibited states from “interfering” with the transport of industrial hemp across state lines so long as it was cultivated and produced in accordance with federal law.
The South Carolina seizure is reminiscent of a similar seizure by South Dakota law enforcement in July 2019 of a 300-pound hemp shipment heading from Colorado to Minnesota. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp at the federal level, South Dakota legislators failed to override the governor’s veto of a bill legalizing hemp in the state. Although 47 states have legalized hemp, the South Dakota governor said legalized hemp would open the door for legalized marijuana in South Dakota.
The driver of the shipment seized in South Dakota was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and possession with the intent to distribute. It seems South Carolina law enforcement was following a similar path.
The Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a memo in May 2019 concluding that states could not prohibit the interstate shipping of hemp that was legally grown.
Interstate legal issues facing hemp producers will continue into 2020 - resolution of these issues is critical to support a thriving, and wildly popular, US hemp trade.