Hemp transportation case ends in plea deal on related charges

A hemp deliveryman charged with drug crimes in South Dakota after a 2019 traffic stop has agreed to fines and probation on related charges even as officials dismissed accusations that the 300 pounds of hemp he was driving to Colorado to Minnesota was illegal marijuana.

The driver pleaded guilty last week to ingesting marijuana and cocaine, smaller charges that resulted from drug tests he was given after being pulled over last August and accused of shipping high-THC marijuana, the Rapid City Journal reported. He was not accused of being impaired while driving, and the marijuana charges related to the hemp he was carrying were dropped.

The case underscored the challenges of transporting hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp nationwide and guaranteed interstate commerce – but the law gave states no assistance to distinguish legal hemp from illicit marijuana, a challenge for traffic enforcement in jurisdictions that don’t allow high-THC cannabis. The South Dakota truckload tested positive for marijuana, though it met the legal definition of hemp.

A federal appeals court in California was asked to sort out the problem after a load of legal hemp was seized in Idaho in early 2019. But the court declined, leaving a patchwork of state enforcement priorities that continues to challenge hemp producers and manufacturers.

In the South Dakota case, the 300 pounds of seized plant material lost its value after a long time in storage, the newspaper reported.