In some respects, Oklahoma is ahead of the national curve on national cannabis policy.
Look: In Oklahoma, thousands of medical marijuana patients are crowding into hundreds of state-licensed dispensaries to buy cannabis flower they can smoke — a thing that you cannot do in “liberal” places like New York City. There are literally too many legal cannabis users for the state to handle! And, see here: state lawmakers are advancing a plan that would expand Oklahoma’s industrial hemp industry.
President Donald Trump (maybe accidentally, who knows, but people are saying, believe me) legalized hemp cultivation, production, and distribution in all 50 states when he signed the 2018 Farm Bill into law, but hemp farming in Oklahoma is still subject to some restrictive state rules. Even so, last year, 28 organizations grew a very modest two acres’ worth of industrial hemp last year in Oklahoma — which almost certainly had more hemp running wild in ditches along roadsides, but as the tautology goes, progress is progress.
And it is, except when it runs into a police checkpoint.
Oklahoma lawmakers may want to encourage farmers to grow a crop that is in significant demand across the country (who among us wouldn’t want to supply the raw material for the oil Brooklynites squeeze into their lattes?) and since there really isn’t much that grows well in the Great Plains aside from wheat, hemp has a real shot to become Oklahoma’s number-two viable crop, but meanwhile, Oklahoma police have established their state as a no-go zone for hemp entrepreneurs wanting to bring their product to market.
In mid-January, police in Osage County, Oklahoma stopped a tractor-trailer carrying 18,000 pounds of what both the shippers as well as lab tests conducted by the DEA concluded is industrial hemp. Undeterred, both police and prosecutors have insisted that the shipment is in fact marijuana despite that, according to Oklahoma’s own industrial hemp program, the product qualifies as hemp.
You could argue that this shipment, which originated in Kentucky and was on its way to Colorado for processing, was abnormally large. This is so. Equally true is the lack of a nexus between size of the hemp shipment and its illegality. Also true is the enormous disincentive to producing and bringing a crop to market if the latter act runs a serious risk of stopping and seizure.
In fairness, the hemp problem is not unique to Oklahoma. As Leafly News recently pointed out, state police in other states have also indicated that they are happy to stop, seize, and subject to testing hemp shipments. In the case of Idaho, this is because state law considers any level of THC illegal, and thus fair game for state police.
State lawmakers back in Oklahoma did not address this significant conundrum directly, but did say that any expansion of the state program would have to wait on direction from federal agriculture regulators. That’s a bit of a dodge. There is nothing stopping Oklahoma state lawmakers from clarifying their own drug-control laws to clarify that hemp is okay and that police should probably stop wasting everyone’s time and the taxpayers’ money and leave it alone.
The idea that low-THC cannabis sativa grown for fuel and fiber and not for resinous flowers is somehow meant for the same market demand fulfilled by, say, the enormous glut of surplus actual THC-laden cannabis in places like Oregon is on its face absurd. Then again, common sense has very rarely mattered for much in the drug war, which police have proven happy to wage on something that Donald Trump (of all people) has said is okay to grow and sell.
TELL US, do you know what defines hemp as opposed to marijuana?