New York to Drop Charges in Mistaken Hemp Case

A New York man charged with felony marijuana trafficking charges can finally heave a sigh of relief after Brooklyn prosecutors said they would drop his charges. Ronen Levy was receiving a shipment of hemp from Fox Holler Farms in New Haven, Vermont, in place of his brother John Dee, when he was arrested by the New York City Police.

Believing it to be marijuana, the police confiscated 106 pounds of organic hemp, even posing for pictures with what they thought to be a major haul of illicit cannabis. Dee, who runs Green Angel, a business in Brooklyn that makes cannabidiol (CBD) products, says that the police need to be better educated about hemp. “There’s a lot of regulations out there, and I think law enforcement has to actually learn these regulations and has to learn the law so other people don’t have to go through what we went through.”

Granted, marijuana and hemp look quite similar, and although there are minor physical differences, the legality depends on THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) levels. THC is the compound responsible for the psychoactive high cannabis is famous for.  Dee had made sure to include documents verifying that the hemp contained 0.06% THC and that he had hemp verified by the Williston police before sending it over by FedEx.

This is line with the 2018 Hemp Farming Act that classified cannabis with less than 0.3% THC as legal industrial hemp and gave farmers in all 50 states leeway to grow the crop under state programs.

Dee says that his brother, who isn’t involved with the cannabis industry and was just receiving the shipment on his behalf, has been traumatized by the incident. Oren Yaniv, a spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office says the charges haven’t been dismissed yet, but they will. “The prosecutor said on the last court date that we plan to dismiss them and just have to take a few steps prior to that.”

The hemp farmer wonders whether he will be able to get his shipment back from police possession. It is worth $17,500, but once processed, he expects the value to increase to about $50,000. “I’m praying because it’s my life savings.”

The whole incident hasn’t done wonders for his Brooklyn business either. He says that Green Angel has struggled to stay afloat amid all the publicity surrounding his brother’s arrest and subsequent charges. Afraid of getting any negative shine on them, suppliers have cut him off, he says, adding that customers are now afraid to buy products from his shop. “It’s crippled my business.”

Such unfortunate incidents may be what experts regard as the motivation for hemp industry players like Hemptown USA and Organigram Holdings Inc. (TSX: OGI) (NASDAQ: OGI) to call on all law enforcement agencies to avoid being overzealous when presented with documents indicating that a product is hemp and yet they suspect it to be marijuana.

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