Felony possession charges dropped against Texas hemp grower

Felony possession charges dropped against Texas hemp grower

But the business is likely closed for good.

Texas prosecutors have dropped felony drug possession charges against a licensed hemp grower in the state, reports the Dallas Observer. However, the founders of Sky & Hobbs Organics say the raids and legal process have destroyed their business, likely permanently.

2021: Raids and a Felony Drug Charge

About an hour’s drive south of Dallas, lifelong friends Hunter “Hobbs” Robinson and Skyler “Sky” Purcell were growing and selling hemp flower rich in the non-intoxicating cannabinoids CBD and CBG.

Robinson, a military veteran, had started using CBD after Purcell suggested it might help with post-traumatic stress disorder and arthritis. A couple years later, in 2020, the pair obtained a hemp license from the Texas Department of Agriculture and ventured into the CBD business. By spring of 2021, sales were solid and they saw potential for Sky & Hobbs to grow into a multimillion dollar operation.

Then, in early June, the Navarro County Sheriff’s Office raided their indoor hemp farm. Robinson reportedly tried to show them paperwork from the Texas Department of Agriculture proving that the operation was licensed and legitimate.

Undeterred, law enforcement seized both plants and finished product.

“[T]heir plants were cut to the stem and their bags of bud were gone, along with their business,” Jacob Vaughn wrote for the Observer in April. Robinson and Purcell were not allowed to enter the property, cutting them off from doing business or recovering their supplies.

“Had they just called us, we would’ve let them in,” Purcell told the Observer. “We wanted to educate … everyone, including law enforcement.”

The sheriff’s office later claimed the samples tested above the 0.3 percent delta-9 THC limit that serves as the line between hemp and illegal forms of cannabis in the state.

After a second raid and seizure in August, Robinson was arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana.

2022: Move to Dismiss

According to the Observer, prosecutors moved to dismiss the charge on May 20, 2022, saying that evidence supported the claim that Robinson’s hemp was hot — but they couldn’t prove he meant to grow or distribute cannabis high in THC.

“There is evidence to show that [Robinson] was in possession of marijuana that contained more than .3 percent concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, however, there is insufficient evidence at this time to prove that [Robinson] intended to possess, produce, or distribute, marijuana that contained more than .3 percent concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol,” reads the motion.

Of three product samples seized, one had 0.378 percent delta-9 THC and another had 0.468 percent, the Observer reported based on findings from the sheriff’s office.

The 0.3 percent limit is a trace amount many growers and processors have pushed against. Evidence suggests THC produces no psychotropic effects in concentrations under 1 percent, and possibly higher, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The origins of the 0.3 percent limit go back to 1976, when Canadian horticulturalists Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist sought to distinguish hemp from other cannabis. The pair of scientists made it clear the distinction was arbitrary, as documented by Hemp Grower.

To that end, “safe harbor” provisions allow for variations in THC levels up to 1 percent, although hemp crops testing above 0.3 percent are to be destroyed.

“The grower can only face criminal charges if their crop tests at more than 1% THC and the state can prove they did it deliberately …” Vaughn wrote for the Observer.

The Dallas Observer first reported the story of the raid and charges in April 2022. At that point the two had been attempting to deal with the issue on their own, quietly, for nearly a year.

“Law enforcement in Navarro County wouldn’t listen until Sky & Hobbs began speaking up about their case to the media and advocates in the hemp industry,” Vaughn wrote in a June 1 follow up, reporting on the dropped charges.

Purcell — the “Sky” in Sky & Hobbs — told the Observer they were “beyond thankful that the state of Texas and Navarro County decided to dismiss Hunter’s pending felony charges,” even though the business had no plans to reopen.

Robinson — “Hobbs” — told the Observer, "The financial and emotional devastation that this has caused will not allow Sky & Hobbs to continue operating. Until there is protections for those investing into this industry, I personally am staying as far away from it as possible. This could have happened to any of us."