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are us customs confiscating marijuana seeds

APNewsBreak: Hemp seeds seized at US-Canada border

Hundreds of pounds of industrial hemp seeds bound from Canada to Colorado have been seized by federal authorities in North Dakota, marking the latest bump along the road to legalization of marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin.

At the center of the dispute is hemp activist Tom McClain. Armed with a copy of last year’s federal Farm Bill, which allowed states to permit hemp cultivation for research and development, he set off for MacGregor, Manitoba, and bought 350 pounds of seeds used to grow a strain known as X-59 or Hemp Nut.

Hemp is legal in Canada, and North Dakota is one of 15 states with laws that allow limited hemp production. However, under the Farm Bill, importing hemp seeds requires permission from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

McClain’s seeds were confiscated Saturday at the border crossing in Hansboro, North Dakota, after he says he declared the seven bags in his trunk. McClain, however, has not been charged with a crime.

“They treated me very professionally,” McClain said after he returned to Colorado — without the seeds. “They were just a little confused as to what to do. According to them, I couldn’t bring them in.”

Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, confirmed the seizure.

“The shipment is currently undergoing scientific evaluation, as hemp seeds can look much like marijuana seeds,” Neudauer said in a statement.

The seizure underscored the difficulties facing the fledgling U.S. hemp industry after five decades of prohibition.

Hemp is prized for oils, seeds and fiber, but its production had been prohibited because the plant can be manipulated to enhance the psychoactive chemical THC — the intoxicant found in marijuana.

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In another recent case, U.S. customs officials in Louisville, Kentucky, held a shipment of hemp seeds from Italy that was bound for research grows.

Kentucky agriculture authorities sued the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Attorney General Eric Holder to force the return of the seeds. The DEA eventually relented and issued a permit to allow limited hemp planting for research in the state.

McClain and Jason Lauve of the Colorado-based activist group Hemp Cleans have appealed to congressional representatives in the state to resolve the seed flap in North Dakota.

A spokeswoman for Colorado’s Agriculture Department, Christi Lightcap, said the agency hasn’t been approached to intervene.

Colorado has accepted more than 40 hemp-cultivation applications. But the state has a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy about the origin of the seeds used in the work.

Growers, meanwhile, have expressed frustration over the limited availability of seeds that are affordable and haven’t been smuggled into the country.

The seeds confiscated in North Dakota were destined for experimental plots. Lauve said owners have only about two weeks to get the seeds planted so they can harvest the hemp before snow falls.

Canadian border officials seizing more cannabis products

CBSA reports that more than 3 million grams of cannabis products were confiscated in the first quarter and more than double that, about 7.4 million grams, was seized in the second quarter of the fiscal year. That compares to about 3 million grams and approximately 3.7 million grams for the first two quarters of fiscal year 2020-2021.

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Despite both medicinal and recreational cannabis being legal in Canada, federal rules detail if it can be imported or exported. “The import and export of cannabis for any other purpose (such as distribution or sale for non-medical purposes) is strictly prohibited,” notes information from the federal government.

Per CTV News, rising weed seizures are, in part, the result of the growing popularity of online purchases.

And although there may be smaller amounts included in courier and postal shipments, these account for most seizures. “This can be partly attributed to a rise in e-commerce volumes, which has intensified with the pandemic,” CTV News quotes a CBSA spokesperson as saying.

Although a completely different agency, recently released figures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that marijuana seizures skyrocketed 2,800 per cent in fiscal 2021 since fiscal 2019 at Michigan’s five ports of entry.

As for New York state, CBP reported in October of 2020 that the amount of confiscated cannabis had rose over 1,100 per cent in 2020 from 2019.

Looking at other drugs, new national figures from the CBP for fiscal 2021 show that 283,268 kilograms of drugs were intercepted. Compared to the previous fiscal year, seizures of cocaine were up 68 per cent, up seven per cent for methamphetamine, down six per cent for heroin and up 134 per cent for fentanyl.

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