Health Care

Kansas attorney general says CBD products illegal, even with no THC

Eddie Smith looked at bottles of hemp oil, or CBD, in his shop Into The Mystic in Mission. His shop, at 5727 Johnson Drive, sells CBD products even though he’s not sure if it’s legal to sell.
Eddie Smith looked at bottles of hemp oil, or CBD, in his shop Into The Mystic in Mission. His shop, at 5727 Johnson Drive, sells CBD products even though he’s not sure if it’s legal to sell.

The latest answer to the ongoing question of whether shops in the Kansas City area can sell cannabidiol or CBD, is a resounding “no” on the Kansas side.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, in an opinion released last week, wrote that it’s illegal in Kansas to sell or possess any product with CBD, a marijuana derivative, even if it doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the ingredient in marijuana that gets people high.

That puts Eddie Smith, who has been selling CBD oil out of a shop in downtown Mission for about a year, in the crosshairs of law enforcement.

“I’m just kind of freaking out,” Smith said Wednesday.

Some Kansas residents who use CBD products were also perturbed.

CBD is sold in powders, pills, oils and lotions as an herbal supplement. People use it for a variety of maladies, although there’s been little scientific study of its health benefits.

Prairie Village resident Julie Cook said topical CBD products ease pain caused by her multiple sclerosis. She said word of Schmidt’s opinion spread quickly on social media, and she and other users are concerned they could be targeted by law enforcement.

“I’m a very productive member of society and I’m not interested in getting stoned,” said Cook, a college instructor. “I just want to not have pain.”

Schmidt’s opinion is not legally binding, but provides guidance to prosecutors across the state, including the two who requested it: Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay and Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe.

Clint Blaes, a spokesman for Schmidt’s office, said Schmidt’s opinion just explains what the current law is. It’s up to the local authorities to decide how they want to enforce it and up to lawmakers to decide if it should change.

“We are aware of the social and policy debates on this subject, and those who disagree with current law are, of course, free to ask the legislature to change it,” Blaes said.

The legality of CBD products is a matter of debate nationally because of conflicting federal laws.

A 2014 farm bill legalized “industrial hemp” that contains 0.3 percent THC or less. That butts up against narcotics laws that the Drug Enforcement Agency says still prohibit marijuana in all its forms.

Shops advertising low-THC CBD or “hemp oil” products have cropped up throughout Kansas City, but have faced push-back from law enforcement on both sides of the state line.

Former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sent several of the shops cease-and-desist letters in 2016, ordering them to stop selling CBD products. So far the state’s current attorney general, Josh Hawley, hasn’t followed suit.

Mission Police seized Smith’s low-THC products last year, leading him and other shop owners in Kansas to move to new product lines with the THC completely removed.

He said the police and the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office told him at the time that would be OK.

“We thought everything is wonderful and we’re go complying and everything is good,” Smith said.

Now he has $7,000 to $8,000 worth of no-THC products that he’s storing in a warehouse until he can figure out what to do about Schmidt’s opinion.

“We got it out of here before the cops came in,” Smith said.

Smith said he wondered how Kansas could enforce the law as outlined in Schmidt’s opinion, given that CBD products are widely available online, and hemp appears in all sorts of commercial products.

“Natural Grocers down the street sells hemp seeds,” Smith said. “Wonderful and very healthy, but that’s going to be against the law.”

Andy Marso: 816-234-4055, @andymarso