The Kentucky Hemp Association and other hemp businesses in the state are suing State Police Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles in their roles as state officials to stop crackdowns on hemp businesses selling Delta-8 THC, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.
The lawsuit argues the raids are illegal and last week asked a Boone Circuit Court judge to stop police from using a letter from the Agriculture Department as an impetus for the law enforcement actions.
The April 18 letter from Department of Agriculture General Counsel Joe Bilby told hemp license holders that “Delta-8 THC is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law and Kentucky law” and “distributing products containing this substance is illegal” which could lead to licensees be kicked out of the state’s hemp program and “potential exposure to criminal prosecution.”
“For that reason, you should not manufacture, market, or distribute products containing Delta-8 THC. Failure to heed this guidance could result in the revocation of your hemp license and expose you to the risks of prosecution by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.”—Bilby in a letter to Kentucky hemp licensees via the Herald-Leader
Last month, police raided two hemp retailers in Morehead, five in Casey County, and one each in Hardinsburg and Hardin County, the report says.
Sean Southard, a spokesman for the agriculture department, said that when Kentucky legalized hemp and allowed sales, industry stakeholders “assured everyone that hemp was different from marijuana and that it was not an intoxicating substance.”
“Relying upon those assurances, the Kentucky General Assembly and the United States Congress passed laws legalizing hemp by creating a definition to separate it from psychoactive forms of cannabis that puts users in an altered state,” he said to the Herald-Leader, adding that if lawmakers wanted to legalize Delta-8 “it would be simple enough for them to enact a law saying so.”
“Because they haven’t, we have to follow the law and educate our license holders about what is legal and what isn’t,” he said.
The Kentucky Hemp Association argues the compound is a legal derivative of hemp under state and federal law. A retail store and hemp farm are also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
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