The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and all parts of the plant, welcoming a new commodity crop to our landscape.  It removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act, period.  This action was taken by Congress, signed into law by the President and 47 States have adopted hemp legislation, including PA.  Yet that means little to nothing at the all to the bombastic Lehigh County District Attorney and his equally ignorant deputy Scheetz.

Case in point is Lehigh County vs Grossman.  Mr. Grossman Sr. and his son saw, like so many, the opportunity that hemp could provide them.  They saw the proliferation of hemp derived CBD at very corner store and decided upon opening a distribution company in the County. They did their homework and saw that they could open a business without any special permit and could legally bring hemp from anywhere in PA or other States. They found that PA only requires a farmer to secure a permit. Yet when Grossman Sr. was pulled over by an unknowing officer for a traffic violation, and that officer spotted what looked like packages of marijuana, that gave reasonable cause to investigate further.  Although each package was labelled as hemp and every item included a QR code which provides seed to sale information, Lehigh has no road side test to identify the difference between hemp and its sister crop, marijuana.  Even the drug  dogs cannot tell the difference between hemp and MJ – it is one of the unforeseen consequences of the new legislation – which will require new dogs to be trained differently.

It resulted in both Grossmans being charged by an aggressive District Attorney and Grossman Sr. sat in Lehigh County prison for two months. Many appeals and approaches were made to District Attorney Martin, by the State and our industry, to no avail His refusal to accept the federal and state law and, more importantly, the intentions of all law makers who passed the legislation to build a hemp industry for the benefit of farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers were of no interest to him.  Mr. Grossman and his son were, according to Martin, nothing but “drug dealers”.  Martin was confident in his legal theory because he did not accept that the federal removal of hemp from the CSA was sufficient because he saw that PA had not removed to “up to 0.3 THC” from within its hemp legislation and narrow oversight. The legislature gave Martin a window to drag the Grossman’s through a nightmare that has cost them more than $25,000 in legal fees, let alone damage to their reputation and loss of opportunity.

Yet District Attorney Martin did not realize that his actions , based on the error of his thinking and insistence of interpreting the law to benefit his argument keep what he claimed was a drug dealer in jail,  not only turned the Grossman’s family upside down, it impacted almost every farmer, retailer and consumer in neighboring Counties and across PA. They read of Martin’s dogged pursuit of jail time and a criminal record for the Grossmans as a very big reason to stay away from hemp.

Yet as the case came closer to Judge Robert Steinburg’s Court this week, and that the Judge expressed interest in knowing more, the District Attorney’s Office undertook a strategy to resolve the case before the Judge could hear more evidence, rule and create a precedence.

We’ve seen this game before.  It’s been played out by the DEA, until the Farm Bill removed hemp from the CSA ending their jurisdiction.  Our government makes false charges, a court case ensues and, before anything can be put on the record, a settlement is proposed, charges are dropped.  Yet that is not justice, it’s an abuse of taxpayer funds to pursue matters of an ignorant elected District Attorney and his team. 

We warn every Lehigh County farmer, owner and employee of a corner store, health food store, gas station and even those participating in farmer’s markets in Lehigh County, as well as every Lehigh County consumer, that they too could become a victim of this rouge and misguided pursuit by Martin and his crew of white knights.

Don’t ever try to reason with Jim Martin.  He knows more apparently about the 2018 Farm Bill and the Hemp Farming Act contained within it than the advocates that fought for it and the legislators that wrote and passed it.  It must be because he sits in an ivory tower of power.  Challenge his thinking and he uses his bellowing voice and human massiveness in an attempt to intimidate and bully. He will quickly tell you he has no boss, that Harrisburg has no authority over him and that only the taxpayers of Lehigh is who he is accountable to.   And if that does not work, he will threaten to have you bodily removed from his office (the very one funded by County taxpayers).

Investors and farmers should stay clear of Lehigh County.  The millions of dollars that are flooding into this market are not welcomed in Lehigh.  DA Martin should never again be provided with another opportunity to hold our legal new industry at ransom.

~Geoff Whaling – President, Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council, Chair, National Hemp Association