WILMINGTON—Port City Releaf is a Wilmington-based company that produces a variety of cannabis-based products that are legal under state law. But recently, shipments of hemp used to manufacture those products have been seized by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
According to Owner Johnson Butler, Port City Releaf imports hemp plants which contain negligible amounts of THC–the major psychoactive chemical in the cannabis plant–from several states, including Oregon and Colorado.
On three occasions, Butler said, shipments via FedEx, UPS and the United States Post Office were intercepted and destroyed by the DEA; shipments were intercepted both in Oregon and en route at a Greensboro shipping depot.
“We’re a new company, and obviously this has been a financial setback for us–we’re out of money, the producer is out of money. We had all the appropriate paperwork, so we don’t understand,” Butler said.
CBD oil is legal, except that it’s not
CBD oil produced by Port City Releaf. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Port City Releaf)
Port City Releaf produces, among other products, CBD oil, an extract of cannabis plant that is legal in the state of North Carolina as long as it contains less than .9 percent THC and at least 5 percent non-psychoactive cannabinoid by weight.
CBD oil is purported to have a wide variety of health benefits. Even the FDA, which has kept cannabis-based medicine at arm’s length, recently recommended the approval of Cannabidiol, a medicine which–like CBD oil–contains very low or no THC and would be used as an anti-epileptic.
Port City Releaf makes CBD oil from hemp plants, a varietal of cannabis sativa that contains very low levels of THC. North Carolina considers hemp distinct from marijuana, the common name for varietals of the plant that have evolved–and been deliberately bred–to contain much higher THC levels.
The problem is, the federal government doesn’t make that distinction.
According to Barbara Carreno, spokeswoman for the DEA, “as far as the federal government is concerned, CBD oil is illegal.”
In early 2017, the DEA created a new schedule I category for all cannabis extracts, regardless of THC level. The move was challenged by the Hemp Industries Association, which claimed the DEA overstepped its authority. However,…