One of the biggest challenges hemp farmers face?
Confusion between their legal plant and high THC cannabis.
In some cases, that means thieves breaking into your farm, eager to get their hands on your hard-earned hemp.
In other cases, that means law enforcement accusing hemp farmers of intending to grow marijuana, instead.
That’s exactly what happened to Debra Palm-Egle and her son Joshua Egle, two Wyoming hemp advocates who nearly lost years of their lives to drug-trafficking charges that would have landed them in prison.
The judge tossed the charges against the mother and son, stating that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that they intended to grow and sell cannabis. She also dismissed charges against the family’s contractor, Brock Dyke, as well as his wife, Shannon. The Dykes were on the property during the November 4 raid.
But just how far were prosecutors willing to take it?
Without so much as an interview, they were ready to put the farmers behind bars for:
- Conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess marijuana
- Possession with intent to deliver marijuana
- Possession of marijuana and planting or cultivating marijuana
That’s right. For farming hemp, today’s most revolutionary legal crop, these four plant advocates were at risk of imprisonment for two felonies and a misdemeanor.
And what evidence did they have to support their case?
THC levels that hovered slightly above the legal limit.
After seizing 700 pounds of the Egles’ hemp, the Department of Criminal Investigations ran tests on THC concentrations. Most of the results showed levels higher than the 0.3% THC limit for hemp, with the highest
concentration filtering in at 0.6%.
Now, as a hemp farmer, you probably know how challenging it can be to avoid hot hemp.
And the test results the Egles previously had conducted showed the plant’s THC levels within the 0.3% legal limit.
As the Dykes’ attorney argued, would an actual criminal go out of his way to “show testing proof to agents, as if it were some elaborate ruse to grow the worst marijuana in the entire universe.”
The judge agreed.
Because here’s the thing . . .
Growing marijuana at a 0.6% THC level would produce minimal psychoactive effects, at best.
But the one thing she did clamp down on the Egles for?
Farming hemp without a license.
Like the rest of us, the two hemp advocates saw enormous economic and therapeutic potential farming the crop. And they moved quickly, without the proper licensing to get started.
“We had to get going,” Joshua Egle told WyoFile. According to the article, the hemp farmers began growing a test crop for research purposes, while wagering officials would work out the regulations side of the industry in time to get a license.
And while they might end up paying a $750 fine for growing without one, that sort of punishment doesn’t hold a candle to the years they would’ve faced in federal prison for marijuana charges.
Moral of the story . . .
Hemp advocates are bravely leading a charge with the capacity to revolutionize our economy and tap into endless innovation.
However . . .
Confusion still abounds when it comes to distinguishing their crops from high-THC cannabis.
Here’s what we can do to limit the risks of law enforcement raids threatening our profession – and our profit:
- Join a Hemp Association: There’s real power in numbers. And the more farmers band together to advocate for beneficial regulations, the more likely it is that our voices will be heard.
- Test Plants Regularly: Knowing exactly when to harvest your crops to avoid hot hemp is crucial if we want to stay compliant with the law. You can learn more here.
- Educate and Advocate: Many people don’t understand the difference between hemp and cannabis. As industry leaders, it’s our job to clear up the confusion so we can keep up with demand.
At the very least, the quick turnaround on dismissing the case could be a beacon of light for our future for hemp farmers.