Is public shaming of a longtime business owner the best way to send a message regarding the illegality of selling CBD oils that contain trace amounts of THC?
It was overkill last week when police raided Staple and Spice Market, a health-food store that has occupied the corner of St. Joseph Street and Mount Rushmore Road in different iterations since 1921.
The official Rapid City Police Department press release paints the scene:
“Following an investigation into the THC content (the active and illegal chemical found in marijuana) of CBD products being sold by a local retailer, local law enforcement seized a number of these products from the business located at 601 Mount Rushmore Road.
“In recent weeks, several products from the store were submitted for drug analysis by the RCPD forensic laboratory. These products returned positive results for measurable amounts of THC content. The product lines testing positive for THC were seized from the retailer by the Unified Narcotics Enforcement Taskforce on the afternoon of May 23.”
And yet, as of Friday, a full eight days after the prohibition-style raid, there was still no word on the concentration of THC in the seized products, no word on whether charges will be filed. If the products tested as strong as, say, anything available in a high school parking lot, OK then. Immediate police action was needed. If, however, the products manufactured by Plus CBD Oil contained concentrations of less than 0.3 percent — as they say on the box — concentrations regarded as industrial hemp rather than marijuana under the recently approved Farm Bill, this seems much ado about very, very little.
Technically, a law may have been broken — a spitting on the sidewalk kind of crime, and possibly not even that.
Law enforcement has delivered a number of mixed signals on whether CBD oil is illegal, as well as about who may or may not be willing to prosecute violators in CBD oil cases.
As the press release noted: “South Dakota law enforcement agencies have received clear communication from the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office that CBD products are illegal under state law, however, the Pennington County States Attorney’s Office has made it clear they do not intend to prosecute any enforcement action taken in relation to CBD products. Rapid City Police Department staff have been advised not to take enforcement action on CBD products until this issue is resolved, however, both the Attorney General and Pennington County States Attorney’s Office have upheld that products containing THC are clearly illegal under South Dakota state law.”
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That, taken alongside what the Farm Bill decreed, makes everything clear as mud.
“We recognize confusion exists regarding CBD products,” said RCPD Chief of Police Karl Jegeris in the press release. “However, we have the responsibility to take enforcement action regarding illegal drug distribution in our community, including products that contain THC.”
Or, how about this? Pick up a telephone and call the business owner. Issue a press release telling local businesses that police will be cracking down on products containing even trace amounts of THC, and then make a raid.
Longtime Staple and Spice store owner Carol Pugh said after the recent raid, “I thought it was safe to sell.”
Pugh said she did what she thought was her due diligence as a retailer of 28 years.
"I think I'm getting the shaft here," Pugh added.
She certainly didn’t deserve to become the unwitting poster child for a legal ping pong match regarding CBD oils containing insignificant THC concentrations.
There was a clear law enforcement choice here between serve and protect, and serve would have been the appropriate action.