Po­lice stop rig, charge men for mar­i­juana; com­pany says it’s hemp

Lexington Herald-Leader - - Bluegrass - BY GREG KOCHER [email protected]­ald-leader.com

Ok­la­homa in­ves­ti­ga­tors are try­ing to de­ter­mine whether a trac­tor­trailer en route from Ken­tucky to Colorado car­ried 18,000 or more pounds of in­dus­trial hemp, il­le­gal mar­i­juana or both.

A lo­cal news sta­tion is re­port­ing that four peo­ple have been charged in the case, but the pres­i­dent of a Colorado com­pany said the ship­ment was “noth­ing but hemp” that was to be pro­cessed into oil for use in a va­ri­ety of salves and sup­ple­ments.

“It’s a mix-up,” said James “Jamie” Baum­gart­ner, pres­i­dent of Panacea Life Sciences. “It’s also a lack of un­der­stand­ing of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties about what is al­lowed and what is not. It’s our un­der­stand­ing as a li­censed hemp bro­ker that we were free to ex­change from point to point hemp or hemp­based prod­ucts be­tween states that have a hemp pro­gram. This was com­pletely shock­ing to us when we heard the fel­lows were pulled over.”

Two Pawhuska, Okla., po­lice of­fi­cers stopped the truck just be­fore 3 a.m. Wed­nes­day be­cause it didn’t stop at a stop­light, re­ported KOTV in Tulsa, Okla.

Farah Warsame, Tadesse Deneke, An­drew Ross and David Dirk­sen have been ar­rested in the case, ac­cord­ing to Ok­la­homa’s News 4. Each has been charged with traf­fick­ing of more than 1,000 pounds of mar­i­juana, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of the Osage County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

The of­fi­cers said they smelled an odor of mar­i­juana, Mark Wood­ward, spokesman for the Ok­la­homa Bureau of Nar­cotics and Dan­ger­ous Drugs Con­trol, said in a Thurs­day in­ter­view. Pa­per­work for the ship­ment said the truck was trans­port­ing 18,000 pounds of hemp from Ken­tucky to Colorado.

Some of the con­tents “looked like hemp and some also were buds that looked like it was pos­si­bly mar­i­juana,” Wood­ward said. “That has been taken for test­ing.”

Four men were ini­tially taken into cus­tody with­out charges. Two men were in­side the trac­tor­trailer and two other men were in an es­cort mini-van, Wood­ward said.

The men told po­lice that “they stopped at a farm in Ken­tucky, and the trailer was loaded by peo­ple at the farm,” Wood­ward said. The men “claimed they weren’t aware of what was in it, and then later said it was le­gal hemp headed to Colorado to be pro­cessed into oil.”

But in­ves­ti­ga­tors were check­ing that out. “It’s not as cut-and-dried as their story makes it sound,” Wood­ward said.

Baum­gart­ner did not know ex­actly from where in Ken­tucky the hemp orig­i­nated. He said the hemp was be­ing taken to Louisville, Colo., and an­other build­ing in Golden, Colo. It was the first ship­ment from Ken­tucky, he said. Other hemp ship­ments have come from Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon and Nevada and “we’ve never had any prob­lems.”

The Pawhuska po­lice chief and dis­trict at­tor­ney could not be reached for com­ment.

“I know there is a rush on those (lab tests) so we could learn some­thing to­day or to­mor­row,” Wood­ward said Thurs­day.

“Un­less you know what good in­dus­trial hemp looks like, it looks like mar­i­juana,” Baum­gart­ner said. “The hemp we pur­chased from these Ken­tucky farm­ers is very high-grade qual­ity . ... Ev­ery­thing was tested for our spec­i­fi­ca­tions be­fore it was loaded onto the truck. When you have a high-qual­ity prod­uct like that, it’s go­ing to look like mar­i­juana. And it’s go­ing to smell like mar­i­juana, but it’s not.”

Baum­gart­ner said the truck car­ried $500,000 to $1 mil­lion worth of hemp, and “its value is be­ing di­min­ished as it is opened to the air and sun­shine and peo­ple ri­fling through it.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion caused a stir in Pawhuska, a city of 3,600 peo­ple in Osage County.

“By late morn­ing Wed­nes­day, a large sec­tion of the mu­nic­i­pal park­ing area be­hind Pawhuska City Hall was the scene of a mul­ti­a­gency in­ves­ti­ga­tion by city, county, state and fed­eral law of­fi­cers,” the Pawhuska Jour­nal-Cap­i­tal news­pa­per re­ported on its web­site.

“Of­fi­cers moved the trans­port truck from the mu­nic­i­pal park­ing area down­town to the train­ing cen­ter at the Osage County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment, south of town, to un­load the ship­ment,” the news­pa­per re­ported. “By early af­ter­noon, law of­fi­cers were busy break­ing open con­tain­ers and ex­am­in­ing the con­tents.”

Ok­la­homa vot­ers ap­proved med­i­cal cannabis in June, and the state al­lows the trans­port of med­i­cal mar­i­juana “if it was grown in Ok­la­homa and shipped to an­other Ok­la­homa lo­ca­tion,” Wood­ward said. “You have to have a state of Ok­la­homa trans­porta­tion li­cense as part of your pro­ces­sor li­cense.”

In the past, au­thor­i­ties have stopped ship­ments of mar­i­juana in the range of 2,000 to 5,000 pounds, Wood­ward said.

“But that was true, high-grade, il­le­gally traf­ficked mar­i­juana,” Wood­ward said. “This is unique in that we have a com­pany that’s bring­ing it through Ok­la­homa that’s claim­ing it’s in­dus­trial hemp to be pro­cessed in Colorado. That’s kind of a new one.

“But as I said, there were other things in that truck that looked like buds, be­yond what we have ever seen as tra­di­tional hemp.”

KOTV/News on 6

Ok­la­homa Bureau of Nar­cotics spokesman said buds found in a large Ken­tucky ship­ment in a truck looked like mar­i­juana to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

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