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Breaking Boundaries: Did One Court Decision Legalize THC for the Entire Nation?

In a groundbreaking decision, an Arkansas federal court recently halted the enforcement of a new hemp law. While the order directly pertains to Arkansas, the underlying findings carry profound implications for hemp regulations across the United States. Essentially, any state law that deviates from the federal definition of hemp or restricts hemp products based on criteria other than delta-9 THC levels may now face constitutional challenges. This is a monumental win for the Cannabis sector, reaffirming the legal standing of Cannabis derivatives and marking significant progress towards broader cannabis legalization.

In this article, I'll distill the court’s primary conclusions. The complete order can be accessed below. Heartfelt appreciation goes to the plaintiffs - Bio Gen LLC, Drippers Vape Shop LLC, The Cigarette Store LLC, and Sky Marketing Corporation dba Hometown Hero - and the legal representation spearheaded by Abtin Mehdizadegan from Hall Booth Smith PC. The importance of this verdict is immense.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY: Arkansas-based hemp firms ("Plaintiffs") challenged the state's enforcement of Senate Bill 358, known as “Act 629” since April 11, 2023. The Act criminalizes hemp products “produced through synthetic chemical processes” and any “psychoactive substance derived therein.” The Plaintiffs argue the Act conflicts with the federal 2018 Farm Bill and its ambiguous provisions render it unconstitutional. The Court concurred, prohibiting the Act's enforcement.

RULING: The Court highlighted three pivotal conclusions:

  1. Conflict Preemption: The 2018 Farm Bill delineates "hemp" and excludes it from controlled substances. The Act's conflicting stance means federal law supersedes it. The Court stated, "The 2018 Farm Bill excludes 'hemp' from marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. The definition extends to 'derivatives, extracts, [and] cannabinoids', covering all products and substances, provided their delta-9 THC levels remain below the set threshold."

  2. Express Preemption: The Court emphasized the 2018 Farm Bill's stipulation that state laws can't obstruct hemp's interstate commerce. It elucidated, "States can't pass laws that hinder the transportation of hemp in interstate trade, including hemp derivatives."

  3. Void for Vagueness: The Court pinpointed terms in the Act that lacked clarity, violating the Due Process Clause. Words like “continuous transportation,” “synthetic substance,” and “psychoactive substances” remained undefined, creating ambiguity for average readers.

This decision not only reaffirms that delta-9 THC is the sole distinction between legal hemp and unlawful marijuana but also extends this standard to all hemp-derived products. Additionally, the Court challenges the ambiguous use of terms like "synthetic" and "psychoactive" in state legislation.

CRITICAL OBSERVATIONS: For Arkansas's hemp landscape, this is a monumental victory, paving the way for a revival of the previously booming hemp market. Moreover, the court's conclusions have far-reaching repercussions on hemp legislation across states. Though the verdict directly influences Arkansas, it sets a precedent for contesting state laws that unjustly limit hemp and its derivatives. Given the recent surge in states implementing restrictive laws that defy the 2018 Farm Bill's allowances, this decision presents a beacon of hope. It remains to be seen how this will influence the impending Farm Bill.

Here is a copy of the court order:

Download PDF • 211KB

THCannabis Recreational Dispensary Marketing Staff

Case 4:23-cv-00718-BRW - Filed 09/07/23


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