Border seizures of hemp continue despite legalization, lawsuit, importer says

Border seizures of hemp continue despite legalization, lawsuit, importer says

A California CBD manufacturer challenging the hemp policies of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency says hemp seizures are still taking place despite nationwide legalization and a federal judge’s assurance that border seizures of legal hemp are a thing of the past.

Innovative Nutraceuticals is trying to keep alive its claims against the federal government for seizing raw hemp the company was trying to get from Spain to its Lake Elsinore location for extraction.

The federal government asked the court to dismiss much of Innovative Nutraceuticals’ case, saying in September that Innovative Nutraceuticals “has not alleged that it is in imminent danger of suffering an injury.”

But the CBD company said in a response filed this week that customs officials “have made it clear that that if (manufacturers) import these lawful products into the United States, they will continue to seize the property and impose fines and penalties.”

No specific examples of ongoing seizures were cited.

Border confusion

The threat of seizures comes despite the 2018 Farm Bill, which removed all hemp parts from the Controlled Substances Act, not just the seeds and stems.

The change means that hemp and CBD are legal to import and export as long as the products meet federal standards – meaning they must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Still, hemp is routinely seized and destroyed at ports, borders and airports, according to lawyers who represent cannabis clients.

“These are violations of the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Michael Chernis, Innovative Nutraceuticals’ lawyer.

Chernis said he’s heard from other CBD manufacturers that have been hurt by wrongful customs seizures in recent months.

“The government is just throwing up all these roadblocks (for importing hemp). A lot of them are far-fetched,” Chernis told Hemp Industry Daily.

The court has not set a date to decide whether to dismiss the company’s lawsuit.

Judge’s confidence

Innovative said that a federal judge who weighed in on the case in April didn’t solve the problem.

U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal repeatedly said the 2018 Farm Bill makes clear that hemp shipments shouldn’t be considered marijuana and shouldn’t be destroyed.

Bernal wrote in April that “these shipments will no longer be subject to summary forfeiture.”

He noted the Farm Bill makes “moot” the problem of U.S. Customs and Border Protection considering any cannabis plant containing THC to be illegal.

“Any future shipments of industrial hemp product containing less than 0.3% THC by dry weight will clearly fall outside the … definition of marijuana,” Bernal wrote.

Kristen Nichols can be reached at [email protected]

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