CBD Oil Results in Felony Charge –


One woman faces charges for hemp-derived cannabidiol oil despite its recent presence  in local grocers 

(Robyn Vincent) Lucky’s barren shelves that were once home to CBD oil.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – A woman driving through Jackson, Wyoming, on her way to Montana left with alife-changing souvenir. On July 8, Anita Maddux, 50, was charged with a felony for possessing a 10-milliliter sample bottle of cannabidiol (CBD) oil from Cid’s, a Taos, New Mexico, health food store. Now Maddux could face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine pending an August hearing.

Independent of that incident, local and state law enforcement showed up to Lucky’s Market and Jackson Whole Grocer two weeks later to inform those stores that CBD products were illegal to sell if they contained any amount of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.

Most CBD oil sold in stores like Lucky’s and JWG purport to contain .3 percent THC, an amount that does not have mind-altering effects as outlined in the 2014 federal Farm Bill. Third party lab analysis obtained by Planet Jackson Hole shows that Maddux’s CBD oil was under that threshold at .06 total THC.

Indeed, as other states loosen cannabis laws and federal lawmakers sponsor legislation to do the same, Wyoming remains a dubious place to possess a hemp-derived product with even trace amounts of THC.

At Cid’s, Maddux worked as an herbalist in the health and wellness department where she received a sample shipment of CBD oil from Functional Remedies. The Colorado company’s CBD oil was on the shelves at Lucky’s Market in Jackson when she was charged.

Lucky’s did not return several requests for comment nor did Functional Remedies.

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants that has a slew of reported health benefits. The Food and Drug Administration just approved it to treat epilepsy in the form of a new drug called Epidiolex. (Wyoming allows people with intractable epilepsy to use CBD oil under the care of a licensed neurologist.)

CBD may also treat everything from Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s to depression, anxiety, inflammation and pain, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence also recently said CBD does not have abuse or dependence potential.

For her part, Maddux was using the oil for chronic back pain—she has a missing disc between her L1 and L2 vertebrae. CBD oil, she said, had brought her some relief, though she took it only sporadically.

Before her drive from New Mexico to Montana to care for her mother who has stage four colon cancer, Maddux placed the sample bottle in her bag and didn’t give it another thought.

Classification and Confusion

Despite the WHO’s recent findings, in the United States, CBD is a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning the federal government does not recognize its medicinal uses and considers it to have a high likelihood for abuse.

That classification hasn’t stopped its proliferation.

CBD oil has fueled a multimillion dollar industry online and at health food stores across the country. In September 2017, the retail giant Target was the first mega-chain to dip its toes into the cannabidiol waters. It wasn’t a pioneer for long, though. It pulled the products from its online shelves after just a few weeks. One month later, Lucky’s made the leap, becoming the first chain natural grocer to carry CBD products.

So why are mom and pop health stores and some chain retailers carrying the products if they are illegal?

For one thing, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency hasn’t been shy about its indifferent stance.

“While CBD currently is still Schedule 1, with our limited resources marijuana has not been our highest priority,” Barbara Carreno, a spokesperson for the DEA, told Planet Jackson Hole. “It is not a priority like opioids or synthetics which are killing people.”

What’s more, Carreno said everything could change when the DEA schedules Epidiolex for medical use on September 24. A plant or botanical could have both uses that are legal and safe and uses that are not, Carreno said. As an example, she pointed to the opium poppy: “you get heroin and oxycontin from that.”

Marijuana, meanwhile, “is a plant with many extracts, THC is one and CBD is another,” she said. “CBD has a small amount of THC but it is very, very low.”

The overarching reason manufacturers are producing and selling these products en masse is because of the 2014 Farm Bill.

That bill legalized the production of hemp under state pilot programs as long as those hemp products contain less than .3 percent THC.

Under the Farm Bill, 40 states have legalized hemp programs including Wyoming, but its program is not slated to begin until 2019. And even though Wyoming is working on a program to allow people to cultivate hemp products, it is illegal to sell or possess such a product in the state if it contains any THC.

Still, since it is a federal program some legal experts argue Maddux wasn’t in the wrong. “As long as hemp was grown as part of a state pilot program (like Maddux’s Functional Remedies CBD oil) then it is federally legal,” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

That means Maddux “is allowed to take it across state lines,” he said.

Miller said Maddux’s case is the first he has heard of someone being charged for carrying a vial of CBD oil. In fact, from his experience, in cases where people have been arrested for possession of both marijuana and CBD, the “CBD was thrown out.”

Wyoming cannabis law, Miller continued, is confusing. “It is quite unfortunate law enforcement would take that confusing law and charge someone for having a product that has virtually no THC and which the World Health Organization has classified as harmless,” he said. “I would hope law enforcement was focusing instead on drugs that kill people.”

On the national stage, Congress is moving in a direction that would remove hemp (cannabis containing less than .3 percent THC) from its classification as a Schedule I controlled substance. Sen. Mitch McConnell–R, Kentucky, sponsored the 2018 Hemp Farming Act, which handily passed in the Senate 86-11 on June 28.

Wyoming, though, is fond of bucking national trends, especially when it comes to cannabis. Indeed, the state has a tight grip on cannabis laws even as public opinion swings drastically in the other direction.

For example, more than 80 percent of Wyomingites say they want to see legalization of medicinal marijuana and more than 60 percent do not want people jailed for marijuana offenses, according to a 2016 survey by the Survey and Analysis Center and the University of Wyoming political science department.

The Un-wild West

Local law enforcement has been in contact with Wyoming’s Criminal Division of Investigation since fall 2017 when Lucky’s and Jackson Whole Grocer began carrying CBD oil. Jackson Chief of Police Todd Smith “reached out to us and asked us for some help because these products were being sold,” said Ronnie Jones of CDI. “Then we discovered this was going on across the state.”

Since then, Jones said CDI has been visiting retail stores and conducting investigations to confirm whether those CBD products contain THC.

Local law enforcement says as long as state law dictates it, they will enforce CBD’s prohibition. “I am duty-bound to uphold those laws,” Teton County Sheriff Jim Whalen said. “Clearly, if we were to talk philosophy, I might talk differently,” he added.

Whalen did not seem convinced Maddux’s felony charge would stick. He suspected it will be pleaded down and pointed to his department’s lenient proclivities. “In terms of misdemeanors, we would prefer to write a citation and send people on their way, which is different than many municipalities.”

Law enforcement is indeed “duty-bound” by laws set forth by the Wyoming Legislature. But cannabis advocates, like Laramie attorney and Wyoming House Minority Whip Charles Pelkey–D, Laramie, point to the state’s law enforcement as a barrier to softening cannabis laws.

Wyoming Rep. Stan Blake–D, Green River, “has introduced bills to make CBD oil readily available but we have gotten opposition from the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police that any THC is a violation of the law,” Pelkey said.

It is true that sheriff and police associations throughout the country have pushed back against cannabis laws. Some point to Colorado’s rising crime data since the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, though it is unclear if the two are related. But Jackson Chief of Police Todd Smith said the notion that sheriffs and chiefs could hold that type of sway in the Legislature is absurd. “Law enforcement inherits the law from the Legislature,” he said. “We may get to testify our professional opinion but for any legislator to blame it on us is a cop out.”

I Fought the Law…

What is seemingly OK in other states will not fly in Wyoming. It is illegal to sell, buy or possess more than .03 grams of CBD oil that contains any amount of THC.

Meanwhile, manufacturers of the oil maintain that if their product contains .3 percent or less of THC, it is legal, sowing greater confusion for state residents and retailers.

Jackson Whole Grocer herbalist Heather Olson said she understands there is a problem with some companies. She said DCI’s Jones told her some of the products he tested carried higher levels of THC than what was indicated on the label. But Wyoming’s crime lab—where DCI tests substances—cannot actually test for specific amounts of THC.

Maddux, meanwhile, is biding her time in Montana, caring for her ailing mother and going to job interviews. She does not dispute the reason why she was initially pulled over, which had nothing to do with CBD oil.

On Sunday, July 8, Teton County Sheriff’s Deputy Jesse Wilcox noticed her expired California license plate and pulled Maddux over. She was also driving without insurance and an expired license. Maddux said she has led a simple life and didn’t have the money to address those issues before hitting the road. “My plan was to just get to Montana, to be with my family,  and take care of everything there,” she said.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Wilcox asked Maddux if she could pay a $850 fine for the tickets or appear in court on July 31. The affidavit stated Maddux said she could do neither.

She didn’t think her brutal honesty would land her in jail, Maddux explained. Instead, she thought the interaction would lead to a mutually agreeable solution.

“I have never been pulled over before,” Maddux said. “So I thought the best thing to do was just to be honest about my situation.” Indeed, a July 30 background check on Maddux showed she has had no prior run-ins with the law.

After he deemed her “a flight risk” because she could not pay the fines and was likely to not appear in court, Wilcox arrested Maddux.

At Teton County jail, personnel found her CBD oil, which they used a NIK test to determine the presence of THC. NIK tests are “rudimentary,” as Smith put it, however. They only confirm the mere presence of THC, not the actual amount. The oil, then, was sent to Wyoming’s crime lab for “analysis” and Maddux sat in jail for roughly 36 hours. She was released on a $1,000-dollar bond.

To help pay for an attorney, Maddux sold her car for $550. Now she worries that much of the volunteer and service work that has become a large part of her life will no longer be an option if she is convicted of a felony. She worked as a disaster relief volunteer in Haiti after its 2010 earthquake and in the Philippines after its 2013 typhoon.

She also volunteered as a yoga instructor teaching yoga to inmates in Oregon prisons. Now, she wonders about some of those inmates and their predicaments. That is to say, had she lacked the resources and life experience to question what happened and obtain a lawyer, she could have slipped through the cracks of the legal system, she said.

While local law enforcement seems confident that a felony will not stick on her record, Maddux said in the meantime she agonizes about her August 16 hearing. Her life “has been thrown into upheaval.”

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