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Prosecutor tells Bellevue CBD store to pull products, says cannabis law is up to Legislature

Prosecutor tells Bellevue CBD store to pull products, says cannabis law is up to Legislature

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LINCOLN — A prosecutor has warned a Bellevue store to pull all cannabidiol, or CBD, products from its shelves or risk legal action.

Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov served a cease and desist letter on the CBD American Shaman shop Friday. The letter gave American Shaman and its owner, Jeff Queen, two weeks to comply.

On Wednesday, Polikov said the products being sold at the Galvin Road shop are illegal under Nebraska law, which prohibits “all parts” of the cannabis plant.

“I don’t take responsibility for how the Unicameral words their laws,” he said, while noting: “It can be fixed. The Legislature can change it.”

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Polikov’s position matches that of Attorney General Doug Peterson, who sent memos to law enforcement and prosecutors in 2017 and again in September.

Peterson said state law prohibits the use of any form of marijuana, including CBD, making it illegal to possess, distribute, manufacture or dispense such products.

The only exceptions, he said, are for a four-year University of Nebraska Medical Center study authorized by the Nebraska Legislature in 2015 and for a prescription version of CBD oil approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in June. The prescription product, Epidiolex, was approved for treating two rare and severe seizure disorders.

Polikov’s letter is the latest move in a growing battle over CBD products — and medical marijuana generally — in Nebraska.

CBD comes from hemp, a cousin of the marijuana plant that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that produces marijuana’s high. State and federal law define hemp as having less than 0.3 percent THC.

A growing number of stores in Nebraska sell CBD products as health and wellness aids, similar to herbal supplements. Products include pills, gummies, vaping liquid, oils, lotions and more. There are even some products geared toward pets.

Stores in Omaha and Lincoln have been operating for more than a year without problems. But Scottsbluff police arrested a mother and son on Dec. 14, the day after they opened KB Natural Alternatives and started offering CBD products.

Queen, who opened the Bellevue store three months ago, said company attorneys have assured him he is on strong legal ground because his products are hemp-based and have low THC.

That ground, Queen believes, became more solid Thursday after President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill, which, among other things, differentiates hemp from marijuana and makes it legal under federal law to grow and sell.

Although states still may regulate cultivation, he said, they may not violate interstate commerce laws by banning the transportation or importation of hemp-based products from other states.

This report includes material from the World-Herald News Service.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

Related to this story

Hemp backers, in interviews, pointed to the state’s less-than-aggressive efforts from 2014 to 2017 to allow even hemp research. Meanwhile, states like Colorado and Kentucky have been expanding their acres of hemp, and 20 states have adopted pilot projects or research programs in the past two years.

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