Brooklyn prosecutors have delayed their decision to dismiss charges against a man who was arrested last month because of a shipment of Vermont-grown hemp on its way to a CBD store.
The New York Police Department’s 75th Precinct boasted about the bust on Facebook and Twitter. The posts have since been deleted.
Ronen Levy was arrested while attempting to pick up a 106-pound shipment of hemp from Fox Holler Farms in New Haven, Vermont. Levy’s brother, Oren Levy, runs Green Angel, a Brooklyn-based business that makes cannabidiol, or CBD, products. Ronen Levy is not typically involved with his brother’s business, but a surgery prevented Oren Levy from picking up the package.
Now, Ronen Levy is facing six marijuana related felonies, all of which he pleaded not guilty to at a court appearance Monday. And the NYPD seems to be waiting until the legal case is resolved before returning the hemp packages.
New York’s NBC4 reported that prosecutors were planning to drop all the charges at the Dec. 2 court date. But now that hearing has been delayed until May 29.
“Whether we’re intending to pursue the charges or not, we indicated at the previous court date that we’re leaning towards dismissal, but the case was adjourned yesterday so that’s all I can tell you,” Oren Yaniv, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.
The Levy brothers and Jahala Dudley, the owner of Fox Holler Farms, said the delay was causing unnecessary pain.
“All I see,” said Dudley, “is the DA harming two small businesses — one in Vermont and one in New York.”
Oren Levy said prolonging the case has had serious health effects on him and his brother, while also threatening to put him out of business after paying $17,000 for hemp he can’t sell.
VTDigger is underwritten by:
“My brother’s not feeling well. I’m not feeling well,” Levy said. “I just can’t believe what’s going on.”
Levy said he had a doctor’s appointment Tuesday, which he scheduled because of the intense stress he has been feeling. He also said he’s lost 10 pounds since the arrest was made, and he isn’t eating or sleeping well.
Levy said his business is “dying” because he hasn’t been able to process the Fox Holler hemp and can’t afford to buy more. He also said other suppliers have been terminating their relationships with his shop because of the legal trouble.
A request sent to NYPD to confirm the package is still in custody went unanswered this week, but Levy said he still hasn’t received the package and is under the impression it is still being held. Even if he does get the product back, Levy said it might be worthless unless it’s been stored in certain conditions.
Back in Vermont, Dudley previously told VTDigger she had the contents of her package confirmed to be legal by a Williston police officer — and provided the paperwork to prove it. Yaniv, the DA’s spokesperson, said the Williston police confirming the content’s legality wouldn’t be relevant to their proceedings.
“We’re in New York, so whatever the laws in Vermont are, are not relevant to this analysis,” Yaniv said.
Williston Police Chief Patrick Foley said the Brooklyn DA called one of his officers about the case and asked “one or two questions,” including if the officers had seen the paperwork certifying the legality of the hemp. Foley confirmed they had cleared the package.
Foley said the DA hasn’t shared much information with his department about anything else they found during the arrest. But he did highlight a growing problem for hemp farmers across the country.
“The thing is, if you run a marijuana test on it, it’s going to come back showing the presence of marijuana,” he said. “But that’s why you actually have to send it to a laboratory so they can do the actual testing to see what the THC content of that product is.”
The Associated Press has reported similar situations across the country, where police officers have arrested others for hemp shipments and field test results say the hemp is marijuana. Drug sniffing dogs will alert to both plants.
“I think in the hemp industry, there is a lot to be learned about it,” Foley said.
Levy challenged the NYPD to better educate their officers, saying there are clear laws in place and the authorities are not following them.
“It’s hard, it’s like who’s the criminal now?” Dudley said. “I’m the one following the laws. Oren and Ronen are the ones following the laws. Who’s not following the law? The NYPD.”
VTDigger is underwritten by:
Stay on top of all of Vermont’s criminal justice news. Sign up here to get a weekly email with all of VTDigger’s reporting on courts and crime.
I Appreciate VTDigger
I want to support independent local news.
John Spencer, Arlington