Moving Green: Cannabis and Hemp Transportation

Published on: September 5th, 2019

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It’s back to school time and many households are fretting over the safe transportation of their little ones to school. Those tiny humans are precious cargo. For farmers across the country, their crops are their babies. I know, not even close to the same thing, but this article is about transportation of precious cargo. First, some quick history: cannabis has been medically legal in California since 1996. That’s 23 years of legal access to the plant. Colorado was the first to legalize recreational use in 2012, seven years ago. To date, there are 33 states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws legalizing marijuana in some form.

Since the 2014 Farm Bill, Hemp has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry with annual exponential acreage increases and record profitability. The 2018 Farm Bill removed any elements of the cannabis plant under 0.3% delta 9 THC from the Schedule 1 Controlled Substances Act. The 2018 Bill also  stated that no state or Indian Tribe can prohibit the interstate transport or shipment of lawfully produced hemp.

The facts are confusing: hemp is federally legal, but not all states have an approved hemp program. Cannabis is not federally legal, yet many states provide some kind of legal access. These legally hypocritical situations have created roadblocks to cannabis and hemp developing nationwide markets. While Oregon just recently made transporting cannabis across state lines legal, a restriction in the bill does not allow cross-border transportation until the federal government permits it. This may be a sign of a near federal de-scheduling (or just more non-actionable legislation).

Either way, the cannabis plant has created a crop demand like no other.  It has not, however, earned acceptance as a national agricultural commodity. Huge strides have been made in transportation accessibility for the industries, but problems persist.

Intrastate transport of cannabis in Colorado requires a special license that meets state requirements. Since the cannabis industry has made record breaking profits, many transport companies began specifically for the industry and are thriving. The product has to get to the store, and with the passage of HB19-1230 (Marijuana Hospitality Establishments), the need is growing for more transportation of the product. Amy Sharp of Sharp Solutions Courier has only been in the cannabis transportation field for two years, but she believes imminent national and global transportation will be a natural transition.

Like Sharp, Andrew Ross of Patriot Shield, a veteran-run security firm that specializes in secure transportation of cannabis and hemp, strongly opposes the lack of consistency in the national market and the hindrance it creates for a company wanting to enter the global market. With hemp federally legal to transport and other countries decriminalizing and legalizing cannabis, the potential for global transportation would be beneficial.

Ross feels strongly about the need for secure transport of these crops because of their high value coupled with risk of loss. Instead of general commodity trade, he thinks it should be treated more like gold or cash, with armed escorts. Both Ross and Sharp understand the difficulties of providing this much needed service to already thriving markets.

Current Travel Status

While no state or tribe is allowed to interfere with interstate travel of lawfully grown hemp, there have been various interpretations and exceptions. Cannabis can  only be transported within state, but hemp has been making its federally legal coast to coast venture since the 2018 Farm Bill. Several high profile cases have made national news since hemp has begun moving across state lines.

Ross was arrested in January 2018 with a fellow veteran, David Dirksen, and two semi-truck drivers in Oklahoma when an 18,000 pound hemp shipment they were escorting was mistaken for marijuana by the local police. Although the charges on Ross and Dirksen were recently dismissed in late July, situations like these cause many hemp transporters to worry. This half-million dollar shipment never made it to its destination because of patchwork cannabis and hemp legislation and education.

Since each state is allowed to set its own regulations, transporting across states can be a confusing compliance effort. Agricultural crops with high value need interstate and intercontinental markets to thrive. Patriot Shield has entered the scene in several states. Ross believes there needs to be nationwide standardization of transporting this plant.

While states want to prevent black market cannabis coming in or passing through, the lack of field tests available to distinguish marijuana with THC and hemp has created a burdensome risk for hemp transporters. In addition to stifling a booming market, drivers are at risk and business growth is capped. Imagine the growth and advancement if both the cannabis and hemp industries were able to work collaboratively on a larger legal scale.

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