A local distributor of cannabis oil is lending legal help to a Mission merchant whose stock was confiscated by local police who say they were operating under Kansas’ “zero tolerance” marijuana laws.
Vince Sanders is the owner of American Shaman Store, a Kansas City-based wholesaler that provides products derived from the cannabis, or marijuana plant, to several sellers on the Missouri and Kansas side of the metro. He said he still believes American Shaman products are legal because they contain hardly any tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a psychoactive “high.”
But the seizure Friday at Into the Mystic, an alternative medicine shop in downtown Mission, has given him pause.
“We’ve got a lot of people (selling) in Kansas, and we’ve never had a problem, so this is a concern,” Sanders said.
Sanders said an attorney who works for him was talking Tuesday to the Johnson County district attorney’s office about the seizure.
Under Kansas law, Into the Mystic owner Eddie Smith could be subject to a felony and up to three years in prison if charged with selling marijuana.
Sanders said all of the American Shaman products have been tested at 0.3 percent THC or less, an amount that could not produce a high even if a user attempted to abuse them as recreational drugs.
“It would be impossible,” Sanders said. “You couldn’t ingest enough. I mean, it’s absurd.”
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is an ingredient in marijuana that is mixed into many forms — powders, pills, oils and lotions. It can’t get you high, but some users say ingesting it or rubbing it on the skin helps with pain and other medical conditions. Most of those claims haven’t been vetted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but GW Pharmaceuticals is in late-stage FDA clinical trials for a CBD-based drug for some epilepsy conditions.
The federal legality of CBD products has been a matter of debate since Congress passed a 2014 Farm Bill that carved out some legal exemptions for “industrial hemp,” which was defined as marijuana products containing 0.3 percent or less THC. Despite the change, marijuana remains a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Schedule I controlled substance with no exemptions based on THC levels.
Medical marijuana laws in some states have caused similar confusion. Missouri law allows for low-THC cannabis oil to be sold to treat children’s seizures, but only by manufacturers who have a license from the state health department. Some unlicensed sellers were subject to litigation under the state’s previous attorney general, Chris Koster.
Efforts to loosen marijuana laws in Kansas have fizzled during the last decade, while dozens of other states have legalized it for medical use and a few have legalized it for recreational use.
Capt. David Maloy of the Mission Police Department said he couldn’t comment on the specific seizure at Into the Mystic because it’s an active investigation. But he said that under Kansas law, the amount of THC doesn’t matter if it’s above 0 percent.
“The state of Kansas already created a threshold at zero tolerance,” Maloy said.
Smith said he contacted both the Mission police and the Kansas attorney general’s office about selling American Shaman CBD products earlier this year. He said the police expressed no concerns at the time, and the attorney general declined to offer any legal guidance.
Smith said the officer with the Mission Police Department who visited the store Friday and confiscated the products was polite and let him inventory every bottle before he handed it over. Smith said the officer told him someone from the department had purchased some undercover on a previous visit and lab testing found trace amounts of THC in them.
Smith, a U.S. Army veteran and a 22-year resident of the Mission area, said he believes the police made a mistake and would like the products returned to him. But he doesn’t want to make waves.
“I don’t want any problems with anybody,” Smith said. “This place is about healing and help.”