Pot of niet? Borstbeelden benadrukken groeiende verwarring over hennnovember 22, 2019
NEW YORK — The CBD craze might be leaving the war on drugs a bit dazed and confused.
The extract that’s been showing up in everything from candy to coffee is legally derived from hemp plants, which look and smell an awful lot like that other cannabis — marijuana. They’re so similar, police officers and the field tests they use on suspected drugs sometimes can’t tell the difference.
Case in point, New York City police boasted on social media this week about what seemed like a significant drug bust: 106 pounds of funky, green plants that officers thought sure seemed like marijuana.
But the Vermont farm that grew the plants and the Brooklyn CBD shop that ordered them insisted they’re actually industrial hemp, and perfectly legal. And, they said, they have paperwork to prove it.
Nevertheless, when the shop’s owners brother went to the police station to straighten things out, he was arrested. Police said a field test had come back positive for marijuana.
Shop owner Oren Levy said that’s likely because hemp often tests positive for a permissible, trace amount of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the chemical in cannabis that causes people to get high.
Field tests used by law enforcement officers can detect THC but aren’t sophisticated enough to specify whether a shipment is legal hemp or low-grade illegal pot, and drug-sniffing dogs will alert on both.
“He was a hungry cop. He thought he had the bust of the day,” said Levy, whose Green Angel CBD NYC sells oils, teas and other products containing the extract. He said he fears the seizure could force him out of business.
“I can’t believe I’m going through this for a legal business,” Levy said. “I can’t believe my poor brother got locked up.”
Oren and Ronen Levy are not alone.
Since the U.S. government removed industrial hemp last year from the list of illegal drugs, a number of similar cases have cropped up across the country.
The Nov. 2 Brooklyn bust that landed Ronen Levy in handcuffs stemmed from a tip from a FedEx worker who suspected the load of plants on their way from Fox Holler Farms in Fair Haven, Vt., to Levy’s shop was marijuana, New York City police said.
Ronen Levy, who runs his own CBD business catering to pets, pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of felony criminal possession of marijuana. He was released on his own recognizance and is due back in court on Nov. 19.
The police department drew attention to the bust by posting pictures on its official Facebook and Twitter accounts showing the officers in a room full of the seized plants. Oren Levy and the farm fought back with posts of their own.