Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press New York Police Department officers stand by what NYPD thought was marijuana when they confiscated it Saturday. The Vermont farm that grew the plants insist it's legal industrial hemp.

Sunday, November 10, 2019 1:00 am

CBD craze causing confusion on busts

Associated Press

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.

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 shop owner Oren 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.

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.

In July, a man who said he was delivering 300 pounds of hemp to a Minnesota CBD-oil processing company was arrested in South Dakota after authorities there said it tested positive for THC.

The substance “looked and smelled like raw marijuana,” a state trooper said.