New Hemp Hauling Rules Vex Trucking Companies, Drivers
Cleveland trucking companies expressed alarm about the plight of several truck drivers in recent months arrested on serious felony drug trafficking charges – for hauling federally-approved industrial hemp across state lines. Along with its oil extract, cannabidiol (CBD), hemp was declared legal by Congress with the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.
To be clear, hemp and CBD are not the same substance as marijuana, which contains the psychoactive ingredient THC. Both hemp and marijuana are parts of the same cannabis plant, but neither hemp nor its CBD derivative contains more than trace amounts of THC (0.3 percent maximum by law).
Hemp is a versatile plant used for thousands of years as a food and fiber source. It was widely grown in the U.S. prior to WWII, until the government chose to strictly regulate it alongside marijuana. Hemp-derived CBD is purported to have a number of health benefits for a range of conditions, ranging from depression to rheumatoid arthritis to epilepsy.
The problem for trucking companies in Cleveland and throughout Northeast Ohio is that this change in federal statute did not automatically alter any state laws. States have been tackling it one-by-one, and some still have the old laws in place. That means truck drivers hauling hemp and CBD material through these states will remain at risk.
Here in Ohio, lawmakers passed a CBD/hemp bill, SB 57, about a week ago – more than six months after the 2018 Farm Bill went into effect. The measure aligns state and federal law.
However, it will have no impact for logistics partners in another state. Trucking companies and logistics firms wading into these waters need to be very cautious. Note too that marijuana is still prohibited – and the difference between a citation and 15 years in prison could be just a couple of miles.
A logistics company can help truckers map their routes, plan their stops and make their way around states that still outlaw hemp and CBD. The goal would be to help the driver and industrial hemp delivery to its destination intact and on time.
Truckers Accused of Drug Trafficking
Perhaps the truck driver/civil forfeiture case that has garnered the most attention involves an Oregonian trucker who was hauling hemp from a facility in his home state to the customer in Colorado. He pulled into a weigh station and the deputy began peppering him with questions from Minute 1.
From there, the evidence gets dicey. A K-9 unit was brought to the truck, and the dog alerted to the smell of marijuana following a “sniff test.” (State prosecutors nationally say these smell-tests – by a canine or human – can no longer be used as evidence of probable cause for searches, because hemp and marijuana smell so similar and hemp is now legal).
Just based on the officer’s public report, there is no indication the THC test was the higher-functioning test that can differentiate and measure minute counts of blood. . Troopers seized nearly 7,000 pounds of hemp. Dude even wet criminal sanity greater the weight/number of drugs/plants, that leaves this truck driver facing a 15-year minimum prison sentence.
In another case, two other out-of-state truck drivers are facing more than decade of prison time each for alleged drug trafficking/aka transporting hemp. Meanwhile, thousands protesting and signing petitions imploring prosecutors to drop the charges That hasn’t happened so far.
Trucking Companies Should Strap in: The Bud Business is Only Just Beginning
While all this has many 3PL trucking companies in Cleveland and beyond very reticent to wade into these waters, on the flip side, cannabis revenues in Ohio are expected to reach $30 billion by 2030. That’s tempting for investors, and there could be rewards for those who jump in that game earlier than later. But it’s a gamble.
Many Cleveland trucking companies, warehouses and logistics firms are taking their time, knowing the difference of 0.01 percent on a single batch of product could have crippling consequences, particularly for those companies hauling the material across state lines.
But there could be other means of gauging the market temperature that aren’t nearly so risky.
Ancillary firms are those that aren’t hands-on with hemp plants, but who provide goods and services to cultivators, processors, retailers and customers. Some examples of ancillary cannabis/hem/CBD markets:
- Packaging and supplies.
- Food and beverage industries.*
- Pipe manufacturers.
- Agricultural supplies companies.
- Research and testing tools.
*Note: The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has issued warning that cbd-infused food and beverages are not legal under the U.S. Food, Drug & Cosmetics Act, but enforcement varies widely, depending on jurisdiction.
Given that truckers can be on the road for extended periods and that tey cross state lines on the regular, it’s up to your driver to
Because truck drivers routinely travel on long state-to-state, knowing each state’s current cannabis and hemp laws before venturing across state lines. Congress did specifically provide for this provision. Now technically, we’re waiting on the state laws to play catch-up.
It does appear only a matter of time before these materials wind up in mainstream commerce. Long painted as a dangerous gateway drug, stringent marijuana prohibition was the law of the land for nearly 60 years, until California legalized medicinal marijuana in 1996. Other states began following suit. Today, 33 states plus Washington D.C. allow medical marijuana. Of those, 11 states – and D.C. – have approved cultivation, sale and possession for recreational purposes.
Hemp in particular is noted to have enormous potential to replace everything from bioplastics to cotton. It’s a sector many Cleveland trucking companies will be keeping an eye on.
Charges against truckers hauling hemp “absolutely horrific”, May 16, 2019, FreightWaves.com
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Highway Bottleneck Blues: 3PL Cleveland Trucking Solutions to Cut Costs, May 25, 2019, Cleveland Trucking Companies Blog