Hemp Association takes legal action after raids in Morehead, other places

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY – The Kentucky Hemp Association is seeking an injunction to stop what it calls improper raids on hemp businesses.

The group filed this week in Boone Circuit Court (KyHempAsFiled), asking a judge to prohibit law enforcement from using a letter from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to target hemp products containing Delta-8 THC.

The complaint argues such products are legal under the applicable state and federal legislation regulating hemp production. Further, it states inaction from the courts could have a “potential billion-dollar impact to Kentucky’s economy, hemp growers, producers, and retail store owners.”

This legal action comes in the wake of an April 2021 advisory opinion (Ag Dept letter) from the General Counsel of the Agriculture Commissioner, concluding that Delta-8 THC hemp products are not exempted from the federal controlled substances list.

On June 15 Kentucky State Police raided two lawful hemp retail stores in Morehead, Kentucky in an effort to seize Delta-8 THC products. Law enforcement took a wide variety of hemp products, money and cameras, and charged store employees with marijuana trafficking.

William Sutterfield owns one of the raided shops – The Eastern Kentucky Hemp Company. He said its cost him thousands.

“There has to be a way where us legal business and professionals come in and offer quality products that are made with very, very strict standards and quality assurance,” Sutterfield said. “We’re just going to try to spread the information as much as we can and spread DELTA-8 to as many consumers and get as many people to try it and be aware of it and be aware of the benefits it can have on our society as a whole.”

Several other stores around the Commonwealth have been raided since.

The motion is filed on behalf of the Kentucky Hemp Association and its members. Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Kentucky State Police Commissioner Col. Phillip Burnett Jr. are named as defendants.

Commissioner Quarles issued a statement on the issue:

“When hemp advocates first approached policymakers about legalizing hemp, they assured everyone that hemp was different from marijuana and that it was not an intoxicating substance. Relying upon those assurances, the Kentucky General Assembly and the United States Congress passed laws legalizing hemp by creating a definition to separate it from psychoactive forms of cannabis that puts users in an altered state. Now, some want to argue that lawmakers accidentally legalized an intoxicating synthetic substance called Delta-8 THC. This position is outside the mainstream, so much so that even Colorado – a state known for legalizing recreational marijuana – has banned Delta-8 THC products.

“Contrary to claims that Delta-8 THC is ‘natural,’ the truth is that there is no consumer product in existence that contains 100 percent naturally-derived Delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC products do not contain compounds naturally extracted from the hemp plant. They contain synthetic Delta-8 THC compounds created in a lab. According to news reports, Delta-8 THC products can and are being made with battery acid and pool chemicals, are making people sick, and have traces of harmful chemicals and metals. That’s why poison control centers in Virginia, Michigan, and West Virginia have issued bulletins warning about the toxicity of these products.

“If legislators wanted to legalize this product, it would be simple enough for them to enact a law saying so. Because they haven’t, we have to follow the law and educate our license holders about what is legal and what isn’t.”

The KYHA and numerous individual members have retained legal counsel to fight back against the encroachment into the hemp industry. The Kentucky Hemp Association calls on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to rescind its guidance letter and for new guidance to be issued.

“People all across the country are thriving in the hemp space. It’s shameful that the entrepreneurs of Kentucky are treated like criminals while citizens in other states are encouraged to flourish. Kentucky needs to step into the new era of hemp freedom. We sincerely hope this puts an end to the law enforcement activity we’ve seen. We would not want this to spiral into Sec. 1983 lawsuits at the end of this one,” said Ginny Seville, of The Botany Bay in Lexington.

“In light of recent events, I would like to make a few things very clear. It is in the opinion of myself and everyone at The Eastern Kentucky Hemp Company that the good people of Kentucky have access to the hemp/cannabis products that they have the god given right to have access too. We will NOT stand by on idle as the KDA or other agencies overstep their boundaries and infringe on the rights of ourselves, friends, and loved ones. The recent actions from the KDA have done nothing except slow monumental advancements and progress of the hemp industry, and prevented the good people of our Commonwealth from accessing something they not only demand, but deserve to have access to. The people of our state and country have fought long and hard to have access to hemp/cannabinoid products, in my opinion too long to allow political dogma of this nature to be forced upon and allowed within our state. Rest assured, we will not stop until the people have and maintain the rights they deserve,” added William Sutterfield III, of the Eastern Kentucky Hemp Co. in Grayson.

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