I recently spotted some illegal hemp products prominently displayed at my local grocery store.

I was in Kroger picking up a few things when I stumbled across this nice display of Laura’s Hemp Chocolates.

Should I have called the cops???

Laura grows hemp on her farm in Winchester, Kentucky, as part of the state’s hemp research program. She not only sells chocolates and other edible hemp products, she also sells CBD products at the brick and mortar store on her farm and through her website.

All of this is illegal.

A page on Laura’s website asserts that CBD is legal because,”Mt. Folly’s hemp is grown under the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s agricultural hemp program.” But the DEA begs to differ. I go into depth about the legality of CBD in this article, but the short version is except for an FDA approved CBD-based medication for seizures available only by prescription, the DEA considers all CBD products illegal under federal law. As a DEA spokesman interviewed by an Indiana TV station put it:

“It’s not legal. It’s just not.”

Not only is selling CBD against federal law, the feds consider the candy Laura peddles in grocery stores all over Kentucky illegal contraband. The Louisville Courier-Journal interviewed another DEA spokesman. Melvin Patterson told the paper that from the agency’s viewpoint, the law is quite clear.

“All hemp products that can be consumed are illegal.”

Many people – apparently including most government officials in Kentucky – think Congress legalized hemp during the Obama administration. But the provisions in the 2014 farm bill relating to industrial hemp only authorized hemp production for academic or agricultural research purposes.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Drug Enforcement Agency released a “statement of principles” to guide interpretation of the hemp section in the Farm Bill. It states, “The growth and cultivation of industrial hemp may only take place in accordance with an agricultural pilot program to study the growth, cultivation, or marketing of industrial hemp established by a State department of agriculture or State agency responsible for agriculture in a State where the production of industrial hemp is otherwise legal under State law.”

In short, the current federal law authorizes farming of hemp – by research institutions, or within state pilot programs – for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited.

The definition of “commercial” and what is allowable under federal law to study “marketing” remains murky and has created significant confusion. But it seems pretty obvious an endcap display in a major grocery chain fits the definition of “commercial.”

On top of that, the statement of principles also asserted that industrial hemp research programs are limited to fiber and seed. It didn’t mention CBD oil or other edible hemp products. The DEA has interpreted that to mean they are illegal.

So technically, Laura is an outlaw and the Kroger Company (the largest grocery chain in the U.S. ) is too.

It looks like Laura’s chocolates sell pretty well. I guess all those satisfied consumers are also criminals.

Here’s the takeaway: despite the federal government’s insistence that edible hemp products are illegal, we have hemp chocolate prominently displayed in a major grocery chain. Nobody’s getting busted. SWAT teams haven’t crashed through the front doors. Laura hasn’t been hauled off in chains. The DEA even admits it’s not enforcing the law,

“We’re in the middle of an opioid crisis, so our focus isn’t on coming in and seizing chocolate hemp,” Patterson said.

So, you know, maybe nullification works.

Mike Maharrey

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