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.