Report: Texas Law Enforcement Won’t Stop Raiding Hemp Shops

Texas cops have absolutely no chill when it comes to hemp.

When Congress legalized industrial hemp in 2018, it prompted a tidal wave of CBD-based products while also eliminating a front in the war on drugs. 

But in Texas, some local law enforcement officials continue to fight the old battle, as a report this week in the Dallas Observer highlights.

The story details a recent raid at the store Venom Vapors in Killeen, Texas, where cops, building inspectors and even the local fire marshal showed up one morning earlier this month saying they had received “a tip about narcotics sales and crime at the business and were there to check it out.”

It was a shock to the store’s owner, Kyle Brown, who recounted the unwelcome visit to the Observer.

More from the story:

“Those authorities managed to find some minor violations, like extension cords that were plugged in where they shouldn’t have been, for one example. But the cops were more interested in some of the products the business was selling – namely hemp products like delta-8, delta-10 and THCa…Many of the products Venom Vapors sells come with a certificate of analysis (COA), which lists the constituents and shows that they are compliant with state law. A detective told Brown he scanned the COA for one of the shop’s delta-8 dab products and that it showed there was too much THC for it to be legal.”

Brown disputed that claim, but according to the Observer, but “the cop said the COA showed the product had something like 80% THC. Brown tried to explain that the COA showed it was within the legal limit of delta-9 THC and that the 80% was actually the delta-8 content.” 

“That’s when things kind of went sideways,” Brown told the publication. “They didn’t take the certificate of analysis for what it was. They instead turned it around and used it against us, which was very alarming.”

In a press release, the Killeen Police Department explained its version of events.

“On Thursday, October 19, 2023, detectives with the Special Investigation Division, conducted a special detail at the Venom Vape/Sweep Stakes located at 1518 S. Fort Hood Street due to crime and narcotic complaints. During the operation, officers arrested seven individuals for Possession of Controlled Substance Penalty Group 1 (under 1 gram), Possession of Controlled Substance Penalty Group 1 (over 1 gram under 4) Fail to Identify Fugitive, Fail to ID, Walking in the Roadway, Resisting Arrest, Search or Transport, and Felony Warrant for Debit Card Abuse,” the press release said.

“On Friday, October 20, 2023, detectives conducted an inspection, with the assistance of the Killeen Fire Marshals, Killeen Code Enforcement, and Killeen Building Inspectors. During the inspection, illegal narcotics were displayed inside the business. A narcotics search warrant was executed, and detectives seized 120 grams of THC products, 56 grams of marijuana, 8 electronic gambling devices (computer towers), 6 gambling ledgers, gambling paraphernalia, and $36,117.00 in US currency.”

According to the Dallas Observer, raids like the one that occurred at Venom Vapors “have cropped up around North Texas in recent months.”

The Observer reported that “Brown claimed the police used the COA to secure a search warrant from a judge, but he thinks if the COA had been presented accurately, the police wouldn’t have been able to get the warrant.”

“The police confiscated all the delta-8 dab products, some delta-8 and delta-10 hemp flower, and some THCa prerolls. They also took over $36,000 from the business as evidence, and eight electronic gaming machines that they say were being used for illegal gambling. (Brown said the machines are also compliant with state law.),” according to the Observer.

The dispute calls to mind another recent story in that part of the Lone Star State: despite the passage of an ordinance by local voters to decriminalize marijuana, officials in Denton, Texas have defied those results.

Voters in Denton –– which is home to the University of North Texas –– overwhelmingly approved the ordinance last year, but in June, members of the city council voted against adopting it.

Under the ordinance, “Denton police officers [would] no longer write tickets or make arrests for possession of small amounts of pot and paraphernalia, [and] no longer stop and frisk people when they smell weed,” the Cross Timbers Gazette reported last year.

But in February, Denton’s city manager, Sara Hensley, sounded the alarm on the implementation of the ordinance.

“I recognize the voters have spoken and I understand that, but we don’t have the authority to implement those because of state law and the conflicts,” Hensley said at the time.

“I do not have the authority to direct the police chief to not enforce the law,” Hensley added.

In June, the Denton City Council voted 4-3 against adopting the ordinance, although the city’s mayor “insisted that police officers still have the discretion not to cite or arrest for marijuana possession but advocates want more assurance they won’t be prosecuted,” CBS News Texas reported at the time.

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