Local hemp manufacturer claims $500K-worth of legal hemp confiscated in Oklahoma

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LOUISVILLE, Colo. -- The president of a Colorado hemp company says more than 17,000 pounds of his legal product has been confiscated by police in Oklahoma.

Four contractors, transporting the plants from Kentucky to Colorado, remain under arrest.

On Wednesday, it appeared police in Pawhuska, Oklahoma may have scored one of the biggest drug busts of all time. But, Jamie Baumgartner, president of Panacea Life Sciences in the northern suburbs says it's his hemp.

“We’re talking in excess of a half a million dollars," Baumgartner said.

Since President Trump signed the Farm Bill in December, the interstate commerce of hemp has been legal. Hemp is part of the cannabis family but should not be confused with marijuana. Hemp only has miniscule traces of THC and cannot make a person high.

“We pre-screened it to make sure that everything was legal according to the federal definition of hemp," Baumgartner explained.

Baumgartner says there was a manifest in the truck listing the cargo as hemp. He also says contractors received pre-clearance from the State of Oklahoma, but that wasn’t enough to encourage local police Pawhuska to simply move on. Instead, officers arrested the drivers and security detail. Four people have been in jail since Wednesday on drug trafficking complaints.

“We do want the hemp back, but our first priority is to make sure that those fellows are not charged and out of jail," Baumgartner said.

Baumgartner has retained a lawyer. He says he understands how local police might get confused. There are similarities in the look and smell of hemp and marijuana.

This was the first time Panacea has ordered a shipment from across state lines, the company says. Industry leaders say this case shows the need for more awareness on the differences between hemp and marijuana.

The Pawhuska Police Department and the Osage County District Attorney's Office have not returned FOX31's calls. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs says it sent an agent to assist on this case and the product is being tested by the DEA.

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