By Bevan Suits, Principal, Integral Media
In Georgia and other states, new laws have come into place that somehow seek to preserve public safety by outlawing all cannabis leaf products. It’s about smokable hemp, and since law enforcement can’t tell the difference between hemp and marijuana, no further sales will be allowed by CBD vendors who otherwise follow the state and federal laws and invest heavily to create a new cannabis economy.
Who do these laws intend to serve? Police in most states are not concerned much at all with small amounts of marijuana and will simply confiscate or flush what they find. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is more focused on narcotics gang trafficking. Tens of thousands of gang members are consolidating power, fueled by meth, cocaine and opiates and often marijuana which cuts into the legal industry. Prosecutors are not pursuing cases of simple possession, for the most part.
The lawmakers that created these new laws are the same ones that allowed the industry to move forward, although without funding or subsidies. Then they began to create legal roadblocks. They have failed to consider the economics of the industry. They have put upon farmers and small businesses the ongoing burden of proving that their crop is not marijuana, which, by USDA benchmark, is anything above 0.3% THC. It’s not clear how this arbitrary number was chosen, but keep in mind that the weakest recreational marijuana available has a THC level of 5%. The average THC level is more like 10% to 12%, so that’s a massive gap, all based on the fear of Reefer Madness.
It seems that Reefer Madness remains a guiding force in state legislatures. What do the police make of all this, how will these laws be enforced if local police are already overstretched?
The good news is that law enforcement, across the board, greatly appreciates transparency, cooperation and funding for equipment and training programs for cannabis, which is what we do. Many hemp associations already have working relationships with local police and prosecutors. A new hybrid profession is emerging of high profile former law enforcement providing consulting for legal cannabis. This will continue to expand with the industry, because no matter the hemp product, police will help to protect those who play by the rules in their community. Politically, this is extremely important. These are difficult times to be a cop and new ideas are welcome.
CBD vendors have three choices: They can be forced to comply by court order; They can ignore it and force a court case; Or they can sue. Is this the right time for a class-action lawsuit? Did the USDA, the FDA and the DOJ envision legal chaos in the hemp industry roll-out? Maybe it’s a good time to update members of the Cannabis Caucus, because the industry is far from what it was a year ago.
Lilu Enterprises, Inc. in Savannah is one of hundreds of CBD businesses across the U.S. currently being challenged on this. Last week they were notified by the Georgia Department of Agriculture that, according to the new HB 847 bill, their raw hemp products can no longer be sold, which accounts for about 40% of their business. Again, the reasoning is that police can’t tell if it’s hemp or marijuana, therefore prohibit all of it.
The Georgia Assembly also thought it would be a good time to jack up the cost of processing to $25,000 for the first year and $50,000 the second year, for the purpose of funding the regulatory program. No public comment was requested on these numbers. Economic development funding to support farmers or hemp business has not been part of the discussion. Again, who do these laws serve?
Lilu Enterprises has already been actively engaged with local police. Next week they will be sponsoring our first LECTra webinar, Law Enforcement Cannabis Training, which we developed over the past year, in discussion with dozens of top law enforcement agencies across the US. They will be donating a field testing device called PurplPro to the local police department. By our measure, PurplPro is the best of its class and can potentially resolve the smokable hemp issue overnight. Georgia Tech is working with us on evaluating PurplPro. Our Ga Tech associates have been helping also to put the industry into proper context, which of course goes far beyond marijuana and CBD.
PurplPro and LECTra is bringing us a very enthusiastic audience of local police, prosecutors and economic agencies. We’re hoping it will go a long way to build working relationships with public agencies and help to minimize the damage to society by organized narcotics traffickers.
Cannabis industry friends and partners can easily contact us about helping to train law enforcement and public agencies. We work with a variety of local and national groups like the Conference on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, where we recently learned that reducing PTSD and suicide risk among police is of highest importance. They are open to learning about CBD for wellness programs.
Bevan Suits is an industrial designer and entrepreneur in the Atlanta area with a particular interest in sustainable agriculture to benefit the planet. He developed the Integral brand to represent the many opportunities to move the cannabis industry forward, connecting with a wide community in Wisconsin, Georgia and Colorado. In Fall 2019, he hosted a 2-day hemp conference at Georgia Tech, the first of its kind at a major research university. For nearly a year he has engaged with every level of law enforcement in the U.S. to develop LECTra, Law Enforcement Cannabis Training. In addition, he is working with Dean Kendall, a farmer in Wisconsin, to develop a hemp cooperative model for the upcoming expansion of the industry.