Hemp flower seized, investigation on going
By Jeri Borst
Cannabinoid flower being sold at a local retailer may result in charges from Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner, for the 18th West Judicial District.
Multiple sources confirmed a warrant was issued for the search of hemp and/or marijuana flower located at the Tobacco SuperStore, after a drug court program participant tested positive for THC – the hallucinogenic cannabinoid chemical, and claimed the product causing the positive THC was purchased at the store.
Though THC can be found in small quantities in hemp flower and process products, such as oils and tinctures, it is the chemical that produces the “high” in marijuana, and research shows THC also has medicinal properties which assist with numerous medical conditions.
The Tobacco SuperStore, like many of its sister stores across the state owned by the same company, and many other retailers sell products containing CBD.
CBD is a nonintoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp. Hemp, which was recently federally approved for agricultural practices, comes with some restrictions in the state of Arkansas.
Though it can be grown and then trafficked and sold to processors, so long as permits and licenses are in order, hemp flower – or the bud – is currently considered contraband in the state.
Proponents of classifying hemp as contraband say that it makes the job of law enforcement officers easier. Because the flower of marijuana and hemp look identical to an observer, it is impossible to differentiate between the two without testing for THC in a lab.
According to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, even though the 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the controlled substances list, no person can grow, handle (possess), or process hemp plants, viable seed, leaf or floral materials without a hemp license issued by the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.
As stated in A.C.A. § 2-15-410(b), “Industrial Hemp that is found in this state at any location off the premises of an industrial hemp grower licensee is contraband and subject to seizure by any law enforcement officer, unless the person in possession of the industrial hemp has in his or her possession either: (A) the proper licensing documents under this subchapter, or (B) a bill of lading, or other proper documentation, demonstrating that the industrial hemp was legally imported and is otherwise legally present in this state under applicable state and federal laws relating to industrial hemp.”
The warrant specified hemp flower, of which $10,000 worth was seized.
The Department Hemp Research Program allows licensed hemp processors to make “publicly marketable hemp products” However, live plants, viable seed, leaf or floral materials are considered “non-publicly marketable hemp products” and should only be in the possession of a Department Hemp License Holder.
When asked to review copies of the certifications for the products derived from hemp, Tobacco SuperStore representatives produced documentation from the grower, processor and lab results, as well as notices to law enforcement.
In addition to the flower being taken, lab results are pending from the open investigation to determine the THC levels.
“It is also important to keep in mind that Arkansas implements ‘Total THC’ compliance testing, which means the THC-acid precursor molecule is decarboxylated to Delta-9-THC to ensure compliance with the federal and state 0.3% Total THC limit,” According to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. “All states wishing to have sole control over industrial hemp production in their state will implement Total THC testing, per USDA’s Interim Final Rule Guidelines.”
The lab results produced by the Tobacco SuperStore show the CBD/hemp products purchased from their distributor have total THC results with in the limits set by the state.
Riner said because the investigation is on going, he could not comment, but did say the flower seized during the search will be tested for total THC content.
If the flower test at the state lab for higher than 0.3% total THC, possible charges involving hemp may change to those involving marijuana.
The Tobacco SuperStore procures their hemp products from an instate source, Ouachita Farms in Saline County. Owners of Ouachita Farms told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in November 2019 that, “they’d take their chances selling the flowers,” co-owner David Owen said.
“It’s just time to go ahead and bring it all out there,” Owen said. “People are interested in locally grown. They want to know where it came from and can go out to the farm and see it.”
Owen said that Ouachita Farms decided to sell the flowers in Arkansas after a federal judge struck down an Indiana law that criminalized possession of smokable hemp.
He told the ADG his company stands ready to file a lawsuit if need be.
Photo by Jeri Borst
After being raided by local and DEA authorities,the Tobacco SuperStore, located on US Hwy 71, continues to sell customers tobacco and processed CBD products.