Trafficking charges dropped for security men protecting semi cargo of hemp

August 1, 2019

Chuck Robinson

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Marijuana trafficking charges in Oklahoma are expected to be dropped for two men hired to provide security for a semitrailer filled with hemp, according to news reports.

The charges stem from arrests made Jan. 9. The men, Andrew Ross and David Dirksen, are employed by Patriot Shield Security to protect hemp shipments.

The charges are expected to be dismissed Aug. 7 in Osage County District Court, according to the Tulsa World, which confirmed the information with prosecutors.

Patriot Shield Security had operated for only a few months before the men and the drivers of the truck hauling the load of hemp were arrested and the cargo seized.

Both Ross, listed as CEO on the Patriot Shield Security website, and Dirksen are U.S. Marine Corps veterans, as is company founder Bo Arbanas.

The truck was pulled over by Pawhuska, Okla., police officers for not stopping at a traffic light on Main Street in Pawhuska.

Charges against the drivers of the truck, Farah Warsame and Tadesse Denke, were dropped in March because prosecutors did not think they were fully aware of the cargo they were assigned to transport. The drivers spent a month in custody before being released on their own recognizance, according to the Tulsa World.

The security company men were released on $20,000 bonds each six days after being booked.

The drivers and security men all faced charges of marijuana trafficking. The security men also were charged with possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Paperwork showing the cargo was hemp and not marijuana was provided to law enforcement officers at the time of the arrests. Hemp was decriminalized in December when the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the farm bill) passed. The farm bill defined hemp as having no more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Prosecutors said samples from the cargo were tested by state authorities and later by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA tested 11 samples, of which five tested above the margin of error for having too much THC to be considered hemp. The Tulsa World reports the highest testing was 0.5%.

The shipment originated from a grower in Kentucky. The destination was a Colorado business involved in manufacturing CBD products.

The men’s cases came at a time of change in the nation and Oklahoma regarding hemp and marijuana.

Oklahoma legislators passed legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt in April paving the way for the state Department of Agriculture to establish guidelines for producing commercial hemp in the state.

Also, in response to this case and two in Idaho (here and here), among others, the U.S. Department of Agriculture general counsel issued a May 28 memorandum that said a state may not block shipment of hemp through its jurisdiction though it can prohibit growing or processing it within its boundaries.

However, the USDA itself does not have hemp regulations in place. The USDA is drafting hemp regulations for publication in the Federal Register and public comment. Its goal is to have regulations in effect by the fall of 2019 to accommodate the 2020 planting season.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service issued an advisory in March clarifying rules for mailing CBD products, which are produced from hemp and used to treat a variety of maladies. CBD products do not induce a high like marijuana does. The USPS said the hemp-derived products can be mailed if the producer has state Department of Agriculture license, provides a signed self-certification statement that the product does not contain more than 0.3% THC, and documents the testing of the product.

Hemp companies say UPS or FedEx have refused to ship hemp-derived products, according to CannabisBusinesTimes.com.

Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.