Wednesday, March 04 2020 17:12

Can You Transport Hemp Across State Lines?

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Recent changes in federal regulations have brought changes to the legal status of cannabis. With those changes came confusion over the legality of transporting certain products through states where hemp remained illegal. Fortunately, newly issued guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) clarifies interstate commerce laws.

2018 Farm Bill

In 2014, hemp cultivation became legal for universities and state departments of agriculture for approved research purposes. At the end of 2018, Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act, commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill. This legislation, signed into law by the president, removed hemp from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and legalized its production. Hemp is a form of the cannabis plant. Legal hemp must contain no more than 0.3 percent of THC, the chemical compound in marijuana that creates the psychoactive effects associated with "getting high."

Industrial hemp and hemp-derived products no longer are the concern of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Instead, the USDA oversees hemp production and related regulations.

Interstate Commerce

Though the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp federally, not all states allow for its production or use. One such state is Idaho, where all forms of cannabis remain illegal. In January 2019, a truck driver was arrested by the Idaho State Police while transporting 7,000 pounds of industrial hemp from Oregon to Colorado. He was charged with smuggling marijuana.

Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill that allowed for interstate commerce were not in effect immediately, since the bill required the USDA to issue official guidelines for hemp cultivation. On October 31, the USDA published its interim final rule in the Federal Register. The guidance, which took effect immediately, clearly legalizes transportation of hemp across state lines: “Nothing in this rule prohibits the interstate commerce of hemp. No State or Indian Tribe may prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp produced in accordance with” the rule making.

How Truck Drivers Can Protect Themselves

Truckers still might wish to take preventive measures to prevent run-ins with law enforcement. Truck drivers transporting hemp across state lines could request a lab certificate that attests to the 0.3 percent THC content level, eliminating confusion between hemp and illegal cannabis. The lawfulness of the hemp's production could be verified with a copy of the hemp cultivation license issued under the state, tribe, USDA plan, or the 2014 Farm Bill.