The Kentucky Hemp Association is fighting back against Kentucky law enforcement in response to a series of raids conducted on two lawful hemp retails stores last month.
The hemp association accuses law enforcement of conducting illegal and improper raids and is now asking a state judge to stop police from conducting similar raids in the future.
What happened at these raids?
“In an effort to seize delta-8 THC products, law enforcement took a wide variety of hemp products, money, cameras, terrorized the store owners and charged their employees with trafficking,” the hemp association said in a news release.
The initial two raids occurred on June 15 in Moorhead, but media reports indicate that seven additional stores were raided in a similar manner since then. Local news stations reported that the Casey County Sheriff’s Office raided five stores in their county, Kentucky State Police raided a store in Hardinsburg and a police task force raided a store in Hardin County.
“They do it like a drug raid.” Ginny Saville told local media. Saville works for The Botany Bay, a local shop that sells hemp products. “They’ll zip-tie everyone’s hands behind their backs, line them up on the floor and take all your product out the front door. All of it. Not just what’s in question, but everything.”
A Department of Agriculture letter allegedly justifies the raids
According to a Kentucky Hemp Association press release, law enforcement has been using a letter from the Department of Agriculture justify the raids.
“This letter — which many of you are familiar with — was waved in the faces of business owners as they watched their store employees being harassed and charged with criminal offenses. This cannot stand,” the release said.
The letter that the Kentucky Hemp Association referred to was written by Joe Bilby, the department’s general counsel, in response to public inquiries about the legal status of delta-8 THC products. It claims that Delta-8 THC is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, which makes it also illegal under state law.
“[D]istributing products containing this substance is illegal and distributing such products could lead to your expulsion from the Hemp Licensing Program as well as potential exposure to criminal prosecution,” the letter states.
However, this interpretation of the law is not standard across Kentucky or the country overall.
The Kentucky Hemp Association explained to local media that delta-8 THC products are federally legal because the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and hemp derivatives. Since delta-8 THC occurs naturally in hemp plants, it meets this legal definition.
“We have over 100 other compounds [in hemp],” said Katie Moyer of the Kentucky Hemp Association. “There’s CBG, CBN, Delta-10, Delta-8. There’s all these other compounds.”
The Kentucky Hemp Association takes action
On July 13, the non-profit reportedly asked a Boone Circuit Court judge to stop police from using the Department of Agriculture letter to target hemp-derived delta-8 THC products. The Kentucky Hemp Association is reportedly asking for the raids to stop until issues surrounding delta-8 THC can be further clarified in their state.
In addition, the Kentucky Hemp Association is suing Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and State Police Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. in their roles as state officials.
The hemp association reportedly stated that if the courts do not act, there could be a “potential billion-dollar impact to Kentucky’s economy, hemp growers, producers, and retail store owners.”