A Wisconsin hemp store owner could spend the rest of his life in jail for selling what he claims were federally-legal CBD products.
Last March, two Wisconsin children were hospitalized after consuming a CBD product that one of their parents had bought at Superstar Buds, a hemp shop in Menomonee Falls. After news of the non-fatal overdose made headlines, local law enforcement sent undercover cops to purchase hemp products from the store and send them to a local lab.
Under both federal and Wisconsin law, hemp products can only legally contain a maximum of 0.3 percent delta-9-THC content. But according to the lab test, several CBD products purchased from the store were found to have more than 20 percent THC. One vape cart reportedly even contained more than 40 percent THC – more than is even legal in some adult-use states.
Police used these lab results to get a search warrant for Superstar Buds. On March 30th, cops executed the warrant, raiding the store and arresting three people. During the raid, cops allegedly confiscated the store's entire supply of CBD products and seized all the cash from the register.
"They (law enforcement officers) illegally trashed our store and intentionally destroyed this sacred plant, (plant abuse) and seized over $100,000 worth of products and cash, they are also trying to charge the owner and employee each with five felonies of manufacture and sales and distribution of THC," said owner Chris Syrrakos, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
After the raid, Syrrakos closed his Menomonee Falls location and opened a new shop in another Wisconsin town. But law enforcement continued to build the case against him, and he has now been charged with nine felonies and two misdemeanors, including Possession with Intent to Deliver THC and Maintaining a Drug Trafficking Place. If convicted, he could face up to 50 years in jail.
"They destroyed my whole life, my family," said Syrrakos, according to FOX6 Milwaukee. "I’m facing 50 years for selling CBD... We never implied to anyone that we were selling marijuana which is what they’re accusing me of. We were selling hemp."
Although the federal government legalized CBD and other hemp-derived cannabinoids under the 2018 Farm Bill, the FDA has yet to issue any regulations governing the sale of these products. And because there are no regulations in place, hemp producers are free to skimp out on testing their products for safety or cannabinoid content, and sometimes even release products with completely fake test results.
Independent analyses have found that nearly half of all popular CBD products being legally sold in the US contain illegal THC levels. Some of these tests have turned up CBD oils with as much as 78 mg of THC in them – almost as much as an entire bag of edibles commonly sold in adult-use or medical marijuana dispensaries.
In his defense, Syrrakos argued that the burden of testing CBD products should fall on the manufacturers themselves, not store owners like himself. "We’re 100 percent reliant upon the certificates of analysis given to us by our suppliers," he told FOX6 Milwaukee.
Syrrakos further argued that the local police do not even have jurisdiction over the THC content of products he is selling. According to his argument, only the federal Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would have the authority to prosecute him for the sale of these products. But a DATCP spokesperson told FOX6 that federal CBD regulations are so vague that it is unclear who actually has the authority to investigate them.
"There’s a lot of contradicting laws that can make anyone in the industry into a criminal for one thing or another," Syrrakos said. The store owner waived his right to a preliminary hearing last month, and will face a jury trial to determine his guilt or innocence in the case.