In mid-January, law enforcement authorities in Osage County, Oklahoma, believed they had on their hands the bust of a lifetime: 18,000 pounds of marijuana in a tractor-trailer, on its way from Kentucky to a buyer in Colorado, seized after a driver was foolish enough to run a red light.
Nobody in those parts had ever seen anything like it before. It was not the biggest marijuana bust ever in history, but the biggest in local memory. For the cops involved and for Mike Fisher, Osage County’s new district attorney — who had been on the job for five days when this case appeared — it would be the seizure of a lifetime, a boast good for the rest of their careers.
All that was needed was proof that the 18,000 pounds of “plant material” was, in fact, marijuana and not non-psychoactive, legal-to-ship-across-state-lines hemp, as the truck’s shipping manifest claims, as defense attorneys for the four men arrested and charged with drug trafficking insist, and as preliminary testing conducted by authorities indicates.
According to defense attorneys, 11 samples from the shipment have been tested and only two show THC levels above the 0.3 percent threshold that determines, legally speaking, whether a particular batch of cannabis sativa is hemp or marijuana, and those “marginally.”
But Fisher won’t quit easy. Unsatisfied with this bust-busting result (and apparently unwilling to drop charges, release the tractor-trailer and its contents, and let the two of the four men arrested out of jail, where they sit, unable to secure bond) Fisher is planning to send the entire 9-ton shipment onto Colorado (its original destination) in order to be tested, Tulsa World reported.
Exactly what that would entail and what it would cost is unclear — as is why, exactly, the preliminary testing is insufficient, or why the men were arrested and the cargo seized prior to testing (and not, say, merely detained).
Actually, that’s not true. It’s perfectly clear. Osage County wants its bust, evidence be d*mned.
“They are trying to call this marijuana,” Lyons told Tulsa World, “when it’s clear to the rest of the sane world that it’s not.”
Part of the reason for the DA’s fanatical pursuit of a determination that would let charges stick, Lyons speculated, is a steadfast refusal by some law-enforcement agencies to accept that hemp might be a legal industry.
Representatives from the Fisher’s office did not comment to the newspaper.
Another anonymous law-enforcement source told a local Fox affiliate that the case is bunk and would never have been charged had their department (whatever it is) handled the case.
Whatever the motivation and whatever the final result, the Great Osage County (Non)bust of 2019 is likely to have a massive chilling effect on interstate hemp commerce which, among other things, needs some assurance that shipments won’t end up in the possession of overzealous police in order to thrive.
Interstate commerce in hemp was always legal, but there is newfound interest in growing the plant — the source material for the “legal-in-all-50-states” CBD oil available in bodegas, bookstores, and family-run video-rental stores across the country — after President Donald Trump signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp farming in all 50 states in December 2018.
So excited for Kentucky, a major hemp-producing state and the source of the material seized in the Osage County bust, was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he whipped out a hemp pen for the occasion.
If McConnell were serious, he could use that pen to send a letter to law-enforcement officials in Osage County, who might then seize the letter and the pen and send them on for testing. As many times as is necessary until they get the result they need for this hemp shipment to be a weed bust.
TELL US, do you foresee future problems when it comes to defining hemp?