States’ authorities cannot obstruct interstate hemp shipments, says USDA. With this statement, the department offers clarity regarding the free transportation of hemp. However, law enforcement concerns are still a huge question.
With the effective removal of hemp from the federal list of controlled substances, it is now legal to carry hemp across state lines. However, there are vexing issues that law enforcement and truck drivers face regarding the transportation of legal hemp. But the memo issued by USDA’s general counsel could be the road to potential solutions to these vexing hemp transportation problems.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has prepared an interim closing rule. The documentation is in draft stage and is being reviewed within the department. This documentation could soon offer regulatory guidance needed for and in line with the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act.
A recent update on USDA’s regulatory agenda also states that the organization will be developing regulations and rules for domestic cultivation of hemp starting in August. Hemp has a wide industrial application such as paper, clothing, jewelry, and biodegradable fuel as well as CBD products, etc.
Absence of Federal Regulatory Framework is a Source of Confusion Among Law Enforcement & Vehicle Carriers
In addition to the legal establishment, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has set a date for oral arguments on August 28 in Seattle on the case of Idaho hemp bust that took place earlier this year. The truck driver was charged with marijuana trafficking as he was carrying leafy substance from Oregon to Colorado. However, the 6,700-pound load of green substance he was carrying was hemp, not pot. The issue is a test case as authorities in Idaho have pressed charges saying hemp is illegal in the state. The state further concludes that there is no federal regulatory framework on interstate hemp transportation as of the moment.
The fact that USDA has not yet furnished regulatory guidelines established on the new law has developed serious confusion among state authorities, law enforcement, and vehicle carriers.
In order to address the confusion, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is arranging a working group. The purpose is to study and find ways to offer guidance to commercial motor inspectors regarding what to do when stopping a truck carrying hemp. It is very important as hemp cannot be easily differentiated from marijuana at the roadside.
Roadside Inspection For THC Is A Serious Issue
Marijuana and hemp not only look the same but also smell the same, says Colorado State Patrol Capt. John Hahn, the chairman of the working group. The captain also says that the issue is the lack of technology for the roadside inspection. When an inspector happens to stop a vehicle to determine the THC content of the substance, he has no way to establish that. “So, there are no easy answers at this point.”
Hemp comes from the cannabis plant family that marijuana comes from. However, the difference is huge. Hemp does not contain the high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), accountable for the psychoactive mind-altering effects of marijuana.
Since 2014, the legal hemp market has seen an immense rise. It has now become a billion-dollar business as of 2018, says Hahn, a member of CVSA’s board of directors. Hahn is also the commander of the Colorado State Patrol’s commercial vehicle hazardous materials enforcement section and has a keen eye on hemp transportation issues. With most US states having legalized hemp, there is still a handful of states in which the commodity is illegal. So, we have to pay attention to the areas that intersect with the farm bill and vehicle carrier regulations.
The working group is likely to start its course at CVSA’s annual meeting in late September in Biloxi, Miss. Till then, the commercial vehicle inspector is likely to be in a bit of a dilemma state, further adds Hahn.
USDA Stance On Hemp Transportation’s Legal Perspective Is Pretty Clear
According to Stephen Vaden, USDA’s general counsel has cleared hemp transportation issue from the legal perspective in May. The department’s statement foretells it’s stance when it issues its upcoming regulatory regimen.
The states and American Indian tribes can control the lawful cultivation and sale of hemp under the 2014 law. However, they may not block the interstate transportation and shipment of the commodity grown under the project sanctioned by the agriculture department, Vaden further clarifies.
According to ATA, hemp is legal for commercial cultivation and research project. However, there are still legal questions regarding whether the current production of hemp meets the standards of the farm bill’s interstate transportation pre-emption provision or not. Due to the confusing situation of interstate hemp transportation legality, the US Trucking Associations have been alerting the truckers to think twice before transporting the commodity until the USDA legal guidelines provide clarity.