Legal hemp delivery drivers released from jail but still charged with smuggling marijuana

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Two delivery drivers who were arrested in Oklahoma for shipping legal hemp have been released from jail, although they are still facing charges for smuggling cannabis, writes Joseph Misulonas.

Farah Warsame and Tadesse Deneke were arrested last month in Oklahoma while shipping a nine-ton order of industrial hemp. The hemp was grown in Kentucky, but being shipped to a buyer in Colorado. Law enforcement seized the shipment and arrested the drivers, claiming that they were actually smuggling cannabis. After being held in prison for nearly a month, the two men were released from prison on Friday, but are still facing charges for smuggling marijuana, a crime that has a prison sentence of 15 years to life under Oklahoma law.

An Oklahoma District Attorney refutes the claims that the nine-ton shipment is legal hemp. He says eight out of eleven samples tested from the shipment tested with a higher THC level than is currently allowed under federal law for hemp, which is 0.3 percent THC. But defense attorneys for the drivers claim that only three of the eleven tests conclusively tested above the limit for legal hemp, and even then the amount of THC they contain is not significantly higher than the legal limit.

This case, and a similar one in Idaho recently, shed light on the lack of clarity surrounding the legal status of hemp. Industrial hemp was made illegal along with cannabis in 1970 as part of the Controlled Substances Act. So hemp was basically regulated the same as marijuana. However Congress legalized industrial hemp as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. But, the federal government has not sent out guidelines or policies to the states to explain how they should address or handle hemp going forward.

It's not quite clear what will happen to Warsame and Deneke. Lawyers on both sides have set a date next month to meet and try to resolve the case. But it's possible they could still go to trial, and possibly end up in jail.

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