TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The end of the 2022 Kansas Legislative session has sparked doubts among CBD store owners and hemp advocates who are all wondering: what comes next for hemp legalization?

Many CBD store owners in Kansas are in a difficult position as their anxious wait for a decision to be made on marijuana legalization never materialized. The Kansas Legislature retired for the year without making any moves on two marijuana-related bills: Senate Bill 12 and House Substitute for Senate Bill 158.

This inactivity has led some hemp advocates, such as Kelly Rippel, the co-founder of Kansans for Hemp and the founding President of the Planted Association of Kansas, to start looking at what options are available along with legal action.

“Because the legislature didn’t pass cannabis, industrial hemp products are on the chopping block,” Rippel said. “Law enforcement is acting like CBD is illegal.”

Rippel said that he is worried that the recent cracking down on hemp stores by law enforcement and the inactivity of the legislature will lead to long-term problems for the 1600 hemp businesses operating in Kansas now. A lack of specific requirements on what products are illegal or legal is what is missing most according to Rippel.

“Our state is doing a poor job of explaining what is illegal,” Rippel said. “This is all being done without any real parameters being given by the state.”

While people like Rippel are seeing what avenues they can take regarding the legalization of cannabis-related products, CBD store owners claim to have been left in the dark on what is and isn’t considered legal in Kansas. Multiple stores in the Topeka area have been raided recently by law enforcement, starting with the Guardian MMJ on April 20, which recently moved from Topeka to Lawrence, for offering products that have been deemed illegal.

Just this past week, the Sacred Leaf of Topeka announced that it was back in operation but with a somewhat limited inventory as the business owner was able to return to selling Delta-8 edibles but was told that smoke and vape products containing THC were not allowed.

“The sheriff was very specific about what was allowed at this point and what wasn’t allowed,” Becky Yokiel, owner of Sacred Leaf, told 27 News on May 26. “So for right now we could only do the edibles.”

27 News also spoke with the owner of Earth’s Choice in Topeka, Shane Roeder, about the recent law enforcement crackdowns.

“We got rid of our Delta-8 products when we heard about other businesses being hit,” Roeder said. “I don’t know how it happened but that’s how it went down for us. Apparently we’re just waiting to hear what’s OK and what’s not.”

While his business hasn’t been visited by any local law enforcement lately, Roeder expressed disappointment that the legislature adjourned without passing anything regarding hemp.

“We’re not really doing much business right now, it’s been hard,” Roeder said. “That’s super unfortunate that it’ll be a totally dead industry out here. I have no idea what’s going on but it seems kinda bleak right now.”

The owner of the Kansas City CBD store Into the Mystic, Eddie Smith, also said that he had pulled his Delta-8 products off the shelves when he heard of other CBD stores being raided by police. An employee of the American Shaman in Overland Park, Rebecca Booth, expressed hope that positive changes can still be made for the hemp industry of Kansas.

“We can definitely overcome this,” Booth said. “The citizens who want to use Delta-8 will make their voices heard. Six years ago, the entire state of Kansas heard the voice of the people and the legislature had to listen to them.”

The confusion surrounding which products are considered to be legal largely stems from the sheer number of cannabis-related products on the market which range from edibles to smoking items or chews. A document released by the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section in 2021 has also placed uncertainties into the hemp industry as it was reported at the time of its release as stating that Delta-8 products are not illegal.

Many hemp store owners take the DEA’s letter to be the basis for legality regarding Delta-8 and other similar products as it states that, “Accordingly, cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant that have a Delta-9-THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis meet the definition of “hemp” and thus are not controlled under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).”

However, last year the state of Kansas’ Attorney General, Derek Schmidt, also released an opinion on unlawful hemp products where he stated that:

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-8 THC) comes within the definition of a Schedule I controlled substance and is unlawful to possess or sell in Kansas unless it is made from industrial hemp and is contained in a lawful hemp product having no more than 0.3% total tetrahydrocannabinols (THC).

Attorney General Derek Schmidt

The AG’s opinion can be seen to conflict with the DEA’s letter on some points, which is also adding to the confusion as to which is more authoritative. 27 News spoke with the Interim Dean of the Washburn School of Law, Professor Jeffrey Jackson on the issues surrounding the legality of cannabis products in Kansas and the authority of the AG’s opinion. His overall thoughts on the legality issue went back to the what Schmidt wrote in 2021.

“I think what’s causing a lot of confusion is how it [the AG’s opinion] says that a schedule 1 controlled substance includes tetrahydrocannabinols naturally contained in a plant of the genus Cannabis, as well as synthetic equivalents,” Jackson said. “But it seems fairly clear that Delta-8 fits into this category. As long as it is a tetrahydrocannabinol and it is derived from the cannabis plant or synthetically like that then it is gonna fall under that definition in the statute.”

Jackson said that CBD businesses in Kansas should adhere closely to the AG’s opinion as it does offer some clarification on what is legal and illegal in Kansas. While the AG’s opinion is just that, an opinion, with no force of law behind it, the opinion is an interpretation of Kansas law which is in use by law enforcement personnel.

“The idea here is the Attorney General’s opinion clarifies the law,” Jackson said. “Even though it has no force of law, it is still a legal opinion that gives them [law enforcement] another opinion from a legal source that says what the proper interpretation is.”

In short, CBD store owners should pay close attention to the AG’s opinion when considering what products to put on their shelves. As far as the gray area that CBD stores claim to have been left in, Jackson said that just because nothing has been passed, there shouldn’t be much confusion on the question of legality.

To read the full 2021 AG opinion on unlawful hemp products, see the document below:

AGO 2021-004 by Matthew Self on Scribd