The NYPD has returned the massive haul of hemp that it mistakenly seized from a Brooklyn business owner last month—but the department isn’t copping to the error, leading to confusion about the legality of the ubiquitous, CBD-producing crop.
Oren Levy, a licensed recovery specialist and owner of Green Angel CBD, told Gothamist that he picked up his $50,000 shipment of hemp from a narcotics storage unit in Queens on Monday. It had been sitting there since November 5th, when NYPD Officers Greenidge and Ganshaw impounded the hemp, then charged Ronan Levy, Oren’s brother, with felony marijuana possession.
The department later bragged on Twitter that it had successfully confiscated illicit drugs “destined for our city streets.”
congrats on the totally legal hemp bust
— edwin tse (@EdwinTsePhoto) November 6, 2019
Throughout the ordeal, Levy maintained that the hemp was certified as having less than .3 percent THC—the cannabinoid found in marijuana that gets users high—and therefore legal under federal law. Police, meanwhile, said it tested as marijuana, and accused Levy have not having the proper paperwork.
The charges were eventually dropped by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, but not before prosecutors noted that New York’s current penal law defines all cannabis—including hemp—as illegal. The office says they’re pushing for a rewrite of that statute, but claims it’s the NYPD’s “mandate” to continue seizing hemp until then.
Products containing hemp can currently be found throughout the city (though the Health Department has prohibited restaurants from selling food and beverages made with CBD). Authorities with the state agricultural department have maintained that CBD products are legal under the Federal Farm Bill, and expressed surprise at the Brooklyn D.A.’s interpretation of the law.
A spokesperson for the NYPD did not respond to Gothamist’s inquiries about whether it has a mandate to seize hemp deemed legal by the state.
“We hope the NYPD will get better training on CBD [because] what happened to us was a nightmare,” Oren Levy told Gothamist. “We hope this will never happen to anyone else in our community. We need to get to the bottom of why this happened.”
The business owner says he’ll have the hemp tested to see if it grew mold or other bacteria while sitting in the police storage locker. He’s currently suing the department and the city to recoup the losses as a result of the confiscation.