In states where medical marijuana has not been legalized, the legalization of hemp, sale of CBD, and the signing of the Federal Farm Bill have caused a lot confusion. It isn't only the general public who are confused, but also many law enforcement agencies, prosecuting attorneys, judges, as well as those hold the positions that created the legislation. In my opinion, part of this is due to the fact that the federal law and the state laws, in many cases, are different. Then, consider that some states continue to modify and amend laws. These changes are difficult to keep up with, not to mention that some aspects within the laws seem to be open for interpretation. This confusion, is the main culprit in what has caused the legal nightmare that we have found ourselves engulfed in since February.
To make matters worse, many states do not have access to the equipment necessary to differentiate between hemp and marijuana. (Kansas is one of these states without access.) While the traditional equipment can detect CBD and THC, it cannot determine whether the cannabinoids come from hemp or marijuana. This is because these tests do not identify how much THC/CBD a sample contains, it will only show that it is present. The amount matters- it matters a lot.
The DEA recently removed hemp, and the THC found in hemp, from the list of scheduled drugs. Meaning that the THC found in hemp should not be considered to be the same as the THC found in marijuana. In order for a cannabis plant to be considered hemp, it must contain no more than .3% THC. In comparison, some reports state that the average marijuana strain contains around 18.7% THC. What does this mean? It means that hemp IS NOT going to get you high- EVER- no matter how much you ingest or inhale.
All of these factors combined: the confusing, unclear laws surrounding hemp, the lack of training that has been provided to law enforcement, and the fact that our state doesn't have access to the testing equipment that is needed, has caused a major legal problem for us personally, as well as our business. The cost isn't only financial. There is a mental/emotional cost as well, and to be honest, I think that this type of cost is worse than the money aspect. Let me explain.
Financially, we have lost $100,000 due to all that was confiscated by the KBI. This includes products, as well as the cash that was in our register, several IPads, two laptops, and our security system. For a small business, that had only been open a little over 6 months, taking a loss like this is devastating. Not to mention that in order to be able to keep our store open, we had to immediately go out and buy another IPad, laptop, and security system. We also had to go to the bank and withdraw cash to replace what was in the register so we would be able to make change for customers. These were expenses that we obviously weren't planning on, but what choice did we have? We had to have an IPad to use for our point of sale system, and we had to have a security system, etc to be able to operate as a retail store.
Another form of financial loss is the damage that having your store raided, on a Friday evening at 5pm (which was typically a very busy time for us), does by way of customers who pull up and see officers wearing bullet proof vests, masks, with guns strapped on them, hauling bags of "evidence" out of your store. It causes the rumors to begin spreading, which ultimately will drive some customers away. There is very little that one can do to try and make up for this type of loss. It is almost impossible to reach out to everyone who may have heard that we were selling "marijuana" and explain the situation, and even if we could do that, the damage has already been done.
Finally, to date, we have spent around $40,000 on attorney retainers and bond money- yes you read that right, BOND MONEY. Keep in mind that we have yet to even have a preliminary hearing. If this continues on, realistically, we could be looking at needing to come up with another $50,000 or more. Which, we do not have, and we have no idea how we will pull it together.
All of this financial stress leads to the mental/emotional cost. I cannot explain the fear and anxiety that occurs the minute that 6 armed, masked men burst through the doors of your store yelling "search warrant". I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. If that initial shock was bad, the emotional roller coaster that follows has been far worse, especially after we were charged with felonies that carry a prison sentence of over 17 years. I cannot count the number of sleepless nights I have spent worrying about the entire situation. I have spent hours worrying about how we are going to come up with the money for our defense, how we will continue to pay our bills, how we will keep our doors open etc. Worse than that though, is worrying about our family, including our parents, and of course we have been especially concerned about our 4 kids. Would they be worried that we will end up going to prison? Would other people say things to them? (The answer to that is: yes, and it hasn't just been other kids that have asked them questions or made comments, incredibly, adults have as well.)
So, when we talk about the cost of the confusion within the CBD/hemp industry due to the unclear laws, for small businesses that are stuck in the middle of it, we can attest that the cost is enormous. Not only is your financial security at risk, but so is your mental and physical health. To be put under this magnitude of stress, and to have it drag on for months, is excruciating, not to mention detrimental to your physical health.
Due to our situation, one thing that I have come to realize, is that our legal system has become so focused on prosecuting to win, that it seems to have lost the ability to use common sense and empathy. No one wants to take any responsibility, or admit that maybe, just maybe, the inability to create clear legislation, directly correlates to the inability to follow said laws. How can citizens be held responsible when even those who are charged with enforcing the laws don't understand them? We aren't the only CBD store in Kansas who has been accused of selling products that law enforcement felt didn't comply with state law. However, as far as I know, we are the only store that is being prosecuted in such a vicious manner. And for what? Selling hemp? Which can be easily purchased on-line, by anyone in Kansas who has access to a credit card and a smartphone? Hemp, that has been declared to be legally mail-able through USPS? Hemp, which has been scientifically proven, cannot get anyone high?
All of the FACTS that surround hemp, and yet, this plant is seen as such a threat, that the state feels like in order to make Kansas a safer place, Sean and I should be locked away from our children and families? Like I have said from the beginning, this situation has become so convoluted, twisted, and complicated, and unfortunately, we are paying the price for all of it. I am here to tell you that the price is steep, and extends far deeper than our pockets.
If there is one bright spot in this whole situation, it is that we have been so overwhelmed by the supportive messages, phone calls, and conversations we have had with our customers. We truly appreciate those who have continued to shop at Free State Collective, and we hope we are able to keep our doors open, and continue providing the highest quality CBD products, at reasonable prices, for years to come in Lawrence.
**If you would like to help support us in our legal fight- please see the link to a Go Fund Me that some friends of ours have created. You can also pre-order t-shirts, either from our online store, or in person, at Free State Collective. We appreciate any and all support. Feel free to share the links on your social media sites as well if you would like.