Floweret MD

Hemp confiscation shows disparities between law in Texas and enforcement.

Truck’s loaded up with legal hemp product, all of the paperwork required by law to transport it, and it’s all by the book; so what’s to stop law enforcement in Texas from confiscating your material and destroying it almost immediately?

Apparently nothing in Texas.

Brycie Wynne, President of Texas Bluebird Hemp, LLC (TBH), has encountered just this dilemma. And when it happens it can appear that the state is sabotaging its own program. HB 1325 passed in the 2019 legislative session legalized the hemp product in the state of Texas and shortly afterward, TDA and DSHS both came out with their programs and rules to follow state law and federal law.

cops and hemp enforcement

What happened?

In June of 2020, Red River Mgmt (RRM) was contracted by TBH to supply hemp starts. The seeds were planted on July 1 2020 to fulfill TBH’s order. By July 17th, RRM was not satisfied with the seedling’s progress at the time. On Monday, July 20, Ben with RRM flew to The Plug Supply in Denver (they supplied the original starts, seeds, and seedlings to RRM) to get replacement plants for TBH and another customer with the same order, along with a purchase of dried CBD flower. The Plug Supply is a hemp-seed and hemp-seedling vendor. Ben with RRM had rented a U-Haul, which was then loaded and documented by Kodi Y at the Plug Supply. Ben had an extensive “pull over packet” which included all the required paperwork to validate that the cargo was indeed legal hemp and not marijuana. TBH says that Ben was so thorough, he even got a Covid-19 test and carried the negative test results, his hemp licenses, passport, and birth certificate.

That same evening at approximately 7:00 pm, a squad car going the opposite direction on the highway in Dumas, TX turned on its overhead lights and siren to pull Ben over. Officers stated that the reason for the stop was that Ben was possibly texting. When asked for his ID and what was in the U-haul, Ben handed over the pull-over packet without concern because he had all the proper documentation. From there, numerous additional squad cars showed up as the original officers went to their car and spent excessive time “looking” at the documents. The officers stated they were unfamiliar with the documents and called in the Moore County Sherriff’s Department and State Trooper Blackshear because Blackshear supposedly knew what the documents represented.

After 3 hours of sitting on the side of the highway, it began to rain, and the officers directed Ben to their “warehouse.” Ben was never arrested, read his rights, or told that the officers were suspicious that he was transporting marijuana. The hemp plants were 8-10 inches tall with no flowers or buds present.

Once inside the warehouse, the officers then proceeded to unload the U-Haul and stated they needed to “test” it and that it takes 4 months to do so. Anybody familiar with testing cannabis plants knows that sending it to a private lab knows it does not take that long, but that for a crime lab to process it can be a different story. The longest it takes a lab is 4 days for a private lab and Ben offered to stay in Dumas and wait for test results. The officers refused to give him an inventory list or receipt for the items they confiscated to place in the warehouse. The officers then made Ben leave the warehouse at approximately 2:00 am. Ben then told them he would return early afternoon that day to discuss the incident with the sheriff and reclaim his legal cargo.

From Bad, to Worse

At approximately 1-2:00 pm on July 21st, Ben returned and met with Lt. Jones of the Moore County Sheriff’s Department. Ben was told by the department that the plants had been destroyed already. From the understanding of RRM and TBH, this is a direct violation of USDA, TDA, ATF and DEA rules regarding these plants. TBH’s understanding is that if the law enforcement offices genuinely believed the plants to be marijuana, they should have arrested Ben, logged everything as evidence, given him a receipt, ticket and put him in jail for the offense. Additionally, the officers would have been required to contact the authorities previously listed and enlist their help with the issue. While Ben was in Lt. Jones’s office, he contacted David Castillo from TDA and Kodi from The Plug Supply. When Ben asked for a copy of his file, he was told that he’d have to file an open records request. (I tried and was told there is no record) No progress other than Ben was given a traffic citation, #122356 and sent home.

On Friday, 7/24, Brycie called the sheriff’s office to get more information on what had happened. Brycie was told that she needs to contact the Moore County DA. Consequently, she left a voicemail for the sheriff as well as FB private messages for them twice. The final response from the sheriff’s office was to contact the DA, and they gave Brycie the sheriff’s phone number. Brycie then called the DA and explained the situation to whom appeared to be an assistant. Brycie waited on hold until the DA could end another call. From there a different woman picked up the phone and told Brycie that she needed to hire an attorney as the DA would only speak to another attorney.

RRM’s attorney send a demand letter to the Moore County DA and expected a response by Wed. July 29th, 2020. At this point, it is Brycie’s knowledge that the DA did not respond, and RRM’s attorney has filed a lawsuit against Moore County.

handcuff for hemp program

The government finally reveals some details on Hemp Enforcement

On Thursday, July 30th, 2020 the TDA attorney David Castillo returned a call from the prior week. David Castillo detailed his call with Lt. Jones and the perceived problems with the documentation. They are as follows per Castillo:

1)The Transport Manifest was handwritten by Plug Supply (vendor) instead of the state of Colorado
Per Kodi, that is the standard manner in which Colorado accepts the transport documents-the person who does the final packing is the person who hand writes the contents. Colorado authorities refer to it as a BOL (bill of lading) which includes a note to law enforcement officers.
2) Ben’s name was not on the transport manifest.
Per Kodi, Ben was supposed to fill in his name and license # when he went back to the U-haul where he had the info.
3) The dried flower was cultivated in Wisconsin and had all proper documentation but did not list the quantity.
Per Kodi, there was an invoice showing the amount of flower purchased from The Plug Supply, the cultivator could not know how much he purchased at 1 time.
4) There was no COA (certificate of analysis).
Per Kodi, there was a certified lab copy of the COA which was provided by the State of Colorado as the official documentation.

Brycie then asked Castillo how the TDA is going to pursue the unlawful seizure. Castillo replied that they were not involved and that this must be resolved between the Moore County DA and our attorneys. Brycie says that she repeated his comment to ensure she had heard correctly that the TDA was in no way going to support the licensed hemp farmers on this issue. Brycie says that she asked if Castillo had spent the 20 minutes to look at documents, to which he told her that he did not. Brycie then clarified what she was hearing, was that as a state attorney and attorney for the Texas Dept of Agriculture that he was not going to report the sheriff’s office for violating USDA, TDA, and DEA laws on how to handle possible marijuana. Brycie wrote that Castillo’s reply was ‘no.”

Frustrated, Brycie asked Castillo why laws are there if they are not enforced. Brycie further stated that Castillo told her, “that each law enforcement can determine their own policies” and that he gave no response when she summarized his answer that every induvial county can make up whatever rules they want to without regard for Federal and State laws. He then referred to their behavior as “a possible training issue.”

The case in August 2020

Brycie reported that by August of 2020 that no documentation of the assets seized have been released if they exist, repeated records requests from each agency had yielded the response of “we don’t have a record of an incident like that,” the Moore County DA, sheriff, Dumas Police and DPS have refused to return calls or have direct discussions about the incident, and the RRM attorney had filed a lawsuit against Moore County.

This is seen as an issue by Brycie, because to her knowledge, at a minimum, the Moore County Sherriff’s office should be able to provide the following under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): a copy of the incident, the “pull over packet”, Inventory list/receipt to Ben, evidence room log, tracking number and location of seized property, the lab used for testing, chain of custody, radio/dispatch recordings that would include car to car communications, MDT (mobile data terminal) dispatch to car and car to car.

To Brycie, this incident was not caused by a “lack of education”. It wasn’t just a little over 8 months prior something similar happened nearby. There was an incident in December 2019 in a neighboring county where the driver of legal hemp was driving a large amount in a U-Haul from California to NY. That man was detained in Arizona overnight while they tested the hemp and then sent him on his way. That same man was then stopped again near Amarillo. From there the man was detained in jail for a month while they “tested” the hemp. This incident wound up making national news. By this point in time these officers most definitely now know the laws.

Brycie reaches out to the Ag Commissioner for help on Hemp Enforcement

On October 28, 2020, Brycie reached out to the Texas Ag. Commissioner via a LinkedIn message. Brycie says she explained the situation and the resulting financial hardship the seizure caused. The Ag Commissioner seemed to be aware of the situation and kindly responded that we had “had needed a travel manifest from TDA,” same as the one from Colorado. The commissioner suggested I contact Eloise Fischkorn, as she is the chairwoman of his hemp council.
I respectfully responded that it states in the rules, as well as the Hemp Training Video, that when transporting from out of state into Texas that the originating state documents are accepted. To obtain a TDA transport manifest, you must have a Texas COA (lab certificate of analysis) to get the transport manifest. This means that one cannot get a Texas manifest unless the hemp movement is originating in Texas. The commissioner responded that I should continue working with TDA attorney David Castillo.

Brycie traded calls and many messages with Eloise. She was not able to provide any resolution. As David Castillo was less than helpful when she originally contacted him, she did not bother to call him again. As noted before, his response was “it’s an education issue” and basically, “my unfortunate luck.”

December of 2020

On December 4th, 2020, Brycie sent the Moore County Clerk, Brenda McKenna, another FOIA request. As of Feb 1, 2021…no response. December 18, 2020, the Moore County Sherriff’s Office Texas Facebook page made an announcement that Sheriff J.E. “Bo” DeArmond would be retiring on 12/31/20. On the 29th, Brycie called the Sheriff’s office and asked to speak with the sheriff. She was transferred to a Lieutenant Hightower. He told her that he was very aware of the incident and said he would have Lt. Jones call me the next day, 12/30/20. The same dayBrycie contacted the sheriff’s office, she sent a message to the Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades, highlighting the seizure, listing the rules and video tag. I requested his assistance in resolving the issue in a satisfactory manner.

Reaching out to Governor Abbott

The same day Brycie reached out to the sheriff’s office and judge in Moore county for assistance, she reached out to Governor Greg Abbott’s Office through the Texas Gov website. Here is the letter she sent:

I am a licensed Texas Hemp Producer. During transport from The Plug Supply in Denver, my legal and fully documented Transparency CBG hemp starts were unlawfully confiscated and “destroyed” by the Moore County Sheriff’s office on July 20, 2020. I bought the starts from Red River Mgmt. in Bells, Tx. They were not successful with the propagation and the owner, Ben Von Kennel, flew to Denver to get starts to fulfill my order. Ben was pulled over for allegedly texting while driving by the Dumas Police Department. He was driving a U-Haul, coming directly from The Plug Supply in Denver. They are one of the largest hemp seed and starts suppliers. Ben had been given the full “pull over packet”, however, the LEO’s were confused. After several hours on the highway shoulder, they escorted Ben to the Sheriff’s warehouse and unloaded the entire U-haul contents around 1 am on July 21. Ben was instructed to return at 1:00pm and meet with the Sheriff. At the time of the stop, The Plug Supply Management team and Randy Rivera (TDA) were called and spoke to the LEOs. It did not matter, by 1:00pm, ALL the plants had been “destroyed”. At this time more Plug Supply managers and David Castillo (TDA attny) were on a conference call with Lt. Jones (Sheriff substitute). This is a direct violation of HB 1325 Sec 122.055, Sec. 122.358, and even the mandatory TDA Hemp Instructional Video (16:22 min. marker). I have tried to work with the Moore County Sheriff, Moore County DA, County Clerk, Moore County Judge, the TDA (David Castillo said “it’s an education issue for LEOs and just my bad luck), Sid Miller, Eloise, etc. The bottom line is that my crop and livelihood were unlawfully destroyed. No one is being held accountable and my repeated calls and FOIA requests get a response of “under investigation” if they even bother to reply.
I need help getting this resolved quickly in a satisfactory manner. I have had to put my farm up for sale and as of January 1, I will be 3 months behind in the mortgage payments. While my crop was not huge, my worst-case cost model showed $30k profit, even if only 35% of the plants survived and the market price fell 50%. It was enough to prevent a probable foreclosure and an immense amount of stress. I know this is not what you or the law makers had envisioned for the beginning of the great hemp industry in Texas. I can provide a detailed report of the communications and requests I have made over the past 5 months if anyone is interested. At the time of the seizure nor any time since has there been an inventory list, property log, arrest, etc. provided by DPS (Officer Blackshear), Moore County Sheriff’s office-Lt. Jones, Sargent McCurley, Officer Casanova or the Sheriff Bo DeArmond. To me, personally, the continued lack of accountability and response by this whole group reeks of coverup and corruption. Can you please help get this resolved?

Thank you,

Brycie Wynne

Governor Abbott’s Response on Hemp Enforcement

January 21, 2021
Ms. Brycie H. Wyome

Dear Ms. Wynne:

Thank you for contacting the Office of the Governor. We understand you have concerns
regarding the actions of Moore. County officials.
We recognize this is a frustrating matter for you. As you know, House Bill 1325 legalizes hemp
production and the selling of certain CBD and hemp products that contain no more than 0.3
percent THC, with program administration and oversight by the Texas Department of
Agriculture (TDA), in cooperation with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

As you also know, TDA is an independent state agency led by a statewide elected official. Our
office works in cooperation with TDA, but we have no authority to direct its activities or act on
complaints about the agency. As such, you may wish to continue working with TDA directly to
ensure your concerns are taken into account and determine how they can best assist you. You
can find more information at the TDA website.

It is important to note that cities and counties in Texas have significant autonomy and authority,
and law enforcement falls under local jurisdiction. As such, you may also wish to continue
working with the appropriate Moore County officials, such as the county sheriff, judge, and
commissioners, to ensure your concerns are taken into account.

Additionally, please note that our office does not seek to provide legal advice. Should you wish
to discuss this matter with legal counsel to determine what options may be available to you, you
can access attorney referral information, including information for low-cost and pro bono
attorneys, by calling (800) 252-9690 or by visiting the State Bar of Texas website.
We wish you all the best. Please let us know if we can assist you in the future.

Dede Keith
Deputy Director
Constituent Communication Division
Office of the Governor

All of this together appears to run contrary to what Governor Abbott had to say in July of 2019 shortly after tending the 86th legislative session. Abbot released this letter to prosecutors all over the state and it may explain why the officers took the stance they did.

III. Prosecutors May Now Prove a Simple No-Certificate Case for Transporting Hemp Without Proper Documentation
In addition to the marijuana laws that remain in effect, H.B. 1325 gave your offices a new simple prosecution tool. You have more tools now, not less, because you can prosecute a misdemeanor for failure to have a proper hemp certificate.
If a person is transporting hemp but has no certificate, you may now prosecute that person for the offense of failing to have a hemp certificate. TEX. AGRIC. CODE §§ 122.356, 122.360. This certificate is required of any person transporting hemp plant material in Texas. If they have a certificate, which the Department has yet to promulgate, then it’s a fake—which is a felony. Id. § 122.055(d).

As more of the store unfolds and parties come forward, TXCANNACo will publish updates. Subscribe to find out more about what is going on in the state of Texas with cannabis and stay updated on this story.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.