Hemp is everywhere in America. It’s grown wild by the roadside throughout the Midwest since World War II, and these days, several companies distribute hemp-derived products high in CBD to all 50 states, where—at least by their understanding—it can be legally sold.
The trick is that the oil contains less than 0.3 percent THC. That’s the threshold to meet the federal definition of hemp, which can thus be legally distributed throughout the country. You can even import and export hemp oil across international borders, as one company is currently doing.
Whether that’s still the case now, or not, is subject to debate, after the DEA ruled in December that any extract “from any plant of the genus Cannabis” is a “marihuana extract,” and therefore a Schedule I controlled substance. In the meantime, there’s one place in America where mail-order hemp oil is definitely off-limits: Alaska recreational marijuana dispensaries. Just the way we like our weed—nice and confusing.
This week, Alcohol and Marijuana Control office enforcement officers barged into several retail stores and seized all the CBD oil, as the Alaska Dispatch News is reporting. The justification is that the oil is a marijuana product—and all marijuana products need to be tested by the state in order to be sold.
Here’s yet another brain twist: The oil is probably OK to be sold in health-food stores, via the mail or in shady deals done dirt cheap in parking lots. Right now, regulators only care about hemp oil sold in marijuana stores.
According to a press release from Sara Chambers, acting director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, the investigation is “ongoing.” She could not say how many dispensaries had product taken.
Caleb Saunders is co-owner of the Green Jar, a retail dispensary in Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla. The seizure left him understandably flummoxed.
“They took all our product,” he told the newspaper. “They didn’t give me any paperwork for anything they took. It kind of just felt like a raid. They just came in. I mean, they were nice.”
Bryant Thorp, owner of the Arctic Herbery in Anchorage, said he had several hundred dollars’ worth of oil seized. But at least he still has weed to sell.
The odd raid is especially inconvenient for Green Jar and other outlets still waiting for local government approval before they can sell any THC-laden cannabis. Saunders had been selling the hemp oil products without issue since August.
Chambers declined to tell the newspaper exactly why the oil had to go. But if you’ll allow us to speculate: If she’s using the DEA definition, hemp oil is marijuana, and marijuana needs testing. Health-food stores might escape scrutiny for the time being; for now, Chambers’ enforcement officers are only visiting marijuana stores.