Updated: Jun 16, 2021
Last fall, the United States Customs and Border Protection seized over 3,300 pounds of hemp that was on its way to Switzerland. It has destroyed a majority of the biomass after alleging that it tested over 0.3% THC.
Months later, Customs still has the hemp that tested within the allowable THC range, and We CBD, LLC, the company that was shipping the hemp, wants it back.
We CBD files lawsuit to get its hemp back
On March 13, We CBD, LLC filed a lawsuit against the United States of America and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We CBD is suing federal customs and border protection to have their seized hemp returned to them.
According to media reports, Customs initially offered to give the hemp back to the company as long as the company agrees not to sue Customs for the destroyed biomass. Now, Customs reportedly claims that the remaining biomass should also be destroyed.
Federal officials have asked the federal court to dismiss the lawsuit, according to a recent Hemp Industry Daily article.
On June 7, Customs filed a separate civil lawsuit against the remaining legal hemp in their possession. In the lawsuit, Customs accuses We CBD of smuggling contraband and requests that the court forfeit the roughly 550 pounds of legal hemp that remains in their possession.
How Customs seized the hemp
On Nov. 8, 2020, We CBD shipped over 3,300 pounds of industrial hemp from Oregon to North Carolina by charter flight. The hemp was ultimately on its way to a customer in Switzerland, court documents state.
We CBD, which is licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to handle and distribute hemp, had purchased the hemp from Hemp Worldwide and Zoe Therapeutics, LLC. Hemp Worldwide and Zoe Therapeutics, LLC are both licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to grow hemp.
The hemp also underwent all legally required testing and “was properly labeled with compliance documents attached to each item during their shipment,” court documents state. The compliance materials were also reportedly available in a separate folder that the charter flight company held.
When the carrier stopped to refuel at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, Customs allegedly called the North Carolina Highway Patrol to do a field test on the hemp. That field test reportedly determined that there was THC present, but could not identify what type of THC.
Customs seized 58 large duffel bags and 35 trash bags full of biomass. Later, it reportedly sent six samples from this biomass to a lab for testing. Five of the six tests reportedly came back over the allowed THC threshold, with one sample testing as high as 69%, according to court documents.
Customs and Border Protection seized roughly 2,780 pounds of hemp that allegedly contained more than 0.3% delta-9 THC. It also seized about 550 pounds of hemp that did not test above the legal threshold.
Each argues that the other failed to follow the rules
Court documents state that Customs “does not have the authority to arbitrarily detain a lawful agricultural commodity. But that is what [Customs] did here.”
The documents further explain that Customs does not have this authority because the 2018 Farm Bill amended the Controlled Substances Act definition of marijuana to exclude cannabis plants that contain 0.3% THC or less.
Federal customs officials reportedly said that We CBD was flying marijuana, not hemp, and that the biomass should be destroyed. Hemp and marijuana are both Cannabis sativa plants. The difference between the two is the amount of delta-9 THC that the plant contains.
Customs claims in its complaint that We CBD was potentially committing fraud while trying to smuggle drugs out of the country. The complaint states that most of the shipment was over the 0.3% THC threshold and that We CBD did not declare its product on the flight.
“Customs argued that We CBD loaded its chartered jet with 93 duffel bags and garbage bags filled with cannabis plants and submitted paperwork that the plane carried only crewmembers and no cargo,” Hemp industry Daily reported.
However, We CBD alleges in its complaint that Customs “intentionally authorized or directed law enforcement officers to undertake the actions that violated [We CBD’s] rights." This document also states that Customs "adhered to an unofficial custom or policy to show deliberate indifference towards the rights of hemp handlers" and "failed to adequately train the individual law enforcement officers to distinguish between industrial hemp and marihuana.”
It also claims that Customs did not follow its own rules for seizing and destroying property.
Customs “has orchestrated a strategy of delay, obfuscation, and false reassurances only to delay [We CBD] of its rights under [Customs and Border Protection] Rules and the U.S. Constitution,” states the filing.