$500,000 shipment of hemp bound for Louisville company seized in Oklahoma

President of Panacea Life Sciences believes this will be test case for interstate transfer of hemp

By Pratik Joshi

Jamie Baumgartner is a worried man. The president of Panacea Life Sciences, a medical-grade hemp company in Louisville, is working with authorities in Oklahoma to get back a shipment of about 18,000 pounds of hemp that was seized last week by police in Pawhuska, Okla.

The shipment is worth $500,000, he said.

Baumgartner called the seizure a test case to provide clarity about the interstate transfer of hemp.

"We are the most high-profile case. States can't lawfully inhibit interstate movement. We've been following the letter of the law," he said. "Law enforcement officials were doing their jobs. They were on uncharted territory."

Meanwhile he's trying to find out what documents he needs to furnish to get back his hemp.

"We need to satisfy the authorities in Oklahoma that it's industrial hemp, so that the charges are dropped," Baumgartner said.

Pawhuska Police Chief Rex Wikel said, "We don't know if it's hemp or marijuana," adding a sample from the lot was tested and was identified as marijuana.

Baumgartner's company had ordered hemp from Kentucky that was being shipped to Colorado via Oklahoma. The transportation company was avoiding traveling through Kansas and Nebraska under instructions from state transportation officials, Baumgartner said. They needed time to assess and interpret the laws related to the interstate transport of hemp, he said.

The semitrailer transporting the hemp shipment and an accompanying security detail were pulled over in the early hours of Jan. 9 after they allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign, according to Baumgartner. Pawhuska police later arrested the driver and three others for allegedly transporting marijuana.

"They were charged yesterday. My first priority is to get the individuals released. They are not our employees. We are in touch with them," Baumgartner said.

Hemp looks and smells a lot like marijuana, but contains a very low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in marijuana that induces a high, he said.

The shipment contained 60 boxes with 300 pounds of hemp in each box, and had all the necessary certification and documentation, Baumgartner said. The shipment is not insured.

He said his company is working to get the charges against the four men dropped.

The charges include felony transportation of controlled substance and possession of a firearm while committing a felony, according to Wikel.

Baumgartner said the security company involved in the transportation had a valid firearm license, and the weapon was not loaded and was kept in a compartment in the back of the vehicle where it couldn't be easily accessed.

Pratik Joshi: 303-684-5310, pjoshi@dailycamera.com

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