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Farmers with a license can grow hemp but cannot sell hemp products to the public

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, the Alabama Political Reporter talked with Gail Ellis with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries about industrial hemp and complaints from hemp farmers that their state licenses are too restrictive.

Ellis told APR that it is illegal in Alabama for a farmer to sell hemp material to the general public or to anyone without a hemp license.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked about the legality of smokable hemp products being widely marketed in the state.

Ellis said that all of those products are presently illegal as are the hemp gummy bears and other chewable hemp products.

The 2018 Farm Bill make industrial hemp legal throughout the country. After the product was legalized by the federal government farmers applied for and received licenses from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to grow hemp in Alabama in 2018. These are the first farms to grow hemp in Alabama legally in approximately 80 years. While hemp historically has been used to make paper, rope, building materials, wood substitutes, etc.; most of the hemp being grown in Alabama today are being grown for their flowers which produce cannabidiol when pressed or run through a centrifuge.

Ellis shared a directive from the Department.

“A licensed grower can legally sell unprocessed hemp to a licensed processor/handler. However, even licensed growers or licensed processor/handlers are prohibited from selling unprocessed hemp (i.e. buds, cigarettes, smokable hemp, hemp tea bags, etc.)”

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Marketing the seeds, plants, or flowers to anyone other than a licensed grower or processor is also presently illegal, according to Ellis

“Dried hemp in the form of floral and bud material is considered unprocessed. As such, it is illegal to sell to the unlicensed public (i.e. individuals, gas stations, online, CBD stores, etc.). Industrial hemp material can only be handled/processed by those with an Industrial Hemp processor/handler license.”

“Licensed Growers are allowed to sell harvested hemp material to other licensed growers and/or processor / handlers in Alabama OR to licensed growers and/or processor / handlers in other states.”

“For CBD store owners who also happen to have a current Hemp Processor/ Handler license, the y would be legal to possess the dried floral/bud material; however, they would still be prohibited from selling unprocessed hemp to the public. Customers for smokable (unprocessed) hemp would not be licensed to handle hemp, so individuals purchasing such products would be in jeopardy of being arrested.”

The Alabama regulation was written by Gunter Guy Jr.

Lisa Varner is a Moody artist, jewelry maker, and hemp/cannabis activist.

Varner is also a leader of Alabama Hemp Love networking, a group of like minded business people in Moody seeking to raise awareness on the hemp issue.

Varner says that she uses cannabidiol oil (CBD) which is derived from industrial hemp.

“I use it for relaxation and to ease migraine headaches,” Varner said. She has been under a doctor’s care for this in the past but the side effects of the migraine medicines available were far worse than the actual ailment. Lisa says she stopped using man made medicines opting instead for natural alternatives; hemp being the best she has found thus far. “With hemp I miss 2-3 days per year due to my migraines without it 5-7 are often lost due to my condition..”

“I am a naturalist. I rarely eat cooked food,” Varner explained. “I am not for corporations altering my medicines and my foods.”

Warner also sells jewelry that she makes from hemp plants. She expressed concerns that the way that the Alabama Department of Agriculture is interpreting the hemp laws will put her jewelry business in jeopardy.

“Anything that you can make from a tree, you can make with hemp,” Varner said. “And anything you can make from petrochemicals, you can make from hemp.”

Patrick Leberte is a licensed hemp grower in Moody, who also owns Hemp 205, a CBD store.

Leberte said that he put most of his money into his farm and startup business thinking he could sell the flowers

“There is no law against it,” Leberte told APR. When Alabama’s hemp crop was ready to harvest the Department changed the rules.

A source close to the hemp industry told APR that the flowers are 30 percent of the hemp business and that the rule on flowers has hurt the profitability of Alabama hemp growers, who already did not have a good crop because of the August and September drought.

“The raw hemp is the best way you can use CBD,” the source speaking on condition of anonymity told APR. “Processing takes out some of the CBG and turpentine.”

“The flowers are more soothing than the oil,” Varner told APR. While CBD oil is working for her, other people need the flowers, and some persons need marijuana.

Varner said that she favors marijuana legalization as well as the full legalization of hemp in all its forms.

While hemp and marijuana look very similar; hemp has a much lower THC content than marijuana. THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical component in marijuana that produces the “high” and the hallucinogenic effects.

St. Clair County District Attorney Lyle Harmon (R) said that the four hemp farms in St. Clair County were all inspected and were found to have less than .3 percent THC. Anything above that would be illegal and have to be destroyed.

Leberte said that poor weather and late planting due to a delay in getting his seed tested resulted in his first hemp crop being stunted so it had to be destroyed.

An Auburn University ag extension agronomist told APR the hemp plant does not flower until decreasing daylight, September and October, thus the plants have to be kept alive through the long summer. She said that it would be foolish to attempt to grow hemp for CBD without overhead irrigation.

Hemp is such a new crop for Alabama that researchers are not even sure what are the best soil pH and fertilization recommendations are for the plant here. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is currently accepting applications for hemp growers for the 2020 growing season.

APR asked Leberte if hemp should be like corn: a farmer can plant it if he wants to and he can harvest and sell it to anyone, even the general public, that will buy the product.

Leberte said no; that hemp should be regulated similarly to tobacco to keep it out of the hands of kids.

Ellis said smokable and eatable hemp products and even CBD have not been approved yet. USDA still has to give approvals and so does FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

The hemp industry source told APR that some farmers are talking to an attorney about suing the state to allow the direct sell of hemp to consumers, especially the flowers themselves.

Ellis said that the rule has not changed from day one and if growers had read their application they would have seen that selling the flowers to the public was forbidden.

Ellis warned that many stores across the state are selling products that are not legal. There is still an issue of who has jurisdiction; but once that is resolved some people who are selling unprocessed hemp products “Could be going to jail.”

APR asked if hemp cigarettes should be taxed like tobacco cigarettes.

Ellis thought said she thought so, “But that is an issue for the Alabama Department of Revenue.”

Chey Lindsey Garrigan is an economic developer, commercial real estate broker, registered lobbyist and political operative with ties to the national hemp and cannabis industries.

“This will only be solved by the Alabama legislature,” Garrigan told APR. “Legislation will have to be introduced and passed in the 2020 legislative session to fix this. CBD and hemp have benefitted the lives of millions of Americans and the Alabama farmer should not be hindered by their own state government when growing a natural product that is widely available in almost every other state.

“When my father passes, I will be moving someplace else if the state does not get off overregulating the hemp plant,” Varner said.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Judge refuses to dismiss Roy Moore lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen

A federal judge last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS filed by former Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Brandon Moseley

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Roy Moore, left, and Sacha Baron Cohen, right, on Cohen's now-canceled show "Who Is America?" (Showtime/YouTube)

Federal Judge Andrew Carter last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS. The lawsuit was filed by former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and his wife Kayla Moore, who claim that Cohen slandered Moore as a pedophile on his now-canceled show “Who is America?”

After the judge denied Cohen’s request to dismiss the $95 million lawsuit, the case will now proceed to discovery, where the Moores announced that they intend to take the depositions of and obtain evidence from Cohen and other relevant individuals at Showtime, CBS and their related entities.

The Moores had put the defendants on notice that if they aired the offensive and defamatory interview by Cohen, who posed in disguise as an Israeli Mossad agent, that they would be sued for large damages. When the defendants did not heed the warning and aired the interview anyway, the Moores brought their lawsuit.

The case is being litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after it was transferred over a year ago from a federal court in Washington D.C.

“We are gratified that the Court is allowing the Moores’ case to go forward and we look forward to putting Cohen and the other defendants under oath,” said Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, and a former federal prosecutor. “The alleged defamation of Chief Justice Moore was malicious and despicable and it is time that a jury of the parties’ peers allow justice to be done. Great harm has been caused to my clients, which must be addressed and remedied.”

In 2017, Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme court, was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. The Washington Post released an investigation that alleged Moore sexually abused young women in the 1970s. Moore denied the accusations.

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Elections

Sessions: Tuberville’s fraud scandal “can’t just be swept under the rug”

Jeff Sessions criticized Tuberville’s actions as a “major fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people,” which “can’t just be swept under the rug.”

Brandon Moseley

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GOP Senate candidates Jeff Sessions (left) and Tommy Tuberville (right).

After The New York Times published an investigation into a financial fraud scandal involving Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, his opponent, former Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, criticized Tuberville’s actions as a “major fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people,” which “can’t just be swept under the rug.”

“This is an astounding story,” Sessions said. “Based on the facts already uncovered, it is clear that Tommy Tuberville was one of two partners in a major hedge fund fraud scheme that bilked large sums of money from hardworking people, including Alabamians.”

Tuberville’s partner was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the scheme by the court in Opelika, while Tuberville was sued for fraud, paying out a sum of money in a private settlement that has been kept out of the public eye.

“This can’t just be swept under the rug, and Tuberville can’t just brush it aside by falsely claiming he was some innocent victim,” Sessions said. “Indeed, he was a victimizer and held himself out as the ‘managing partner’ of the firm. Tuberville must give a full and complete accounting of this scandal. The people of Alabama deserve to know the complete truth now, before the election, about the man who is asking to be their senator.”

This scandal has been widely talked about in Republican circles for months or longer, but The New York Times article details the allegations for one of the first times in the national spotlight.

Tuberville became a full partner in a hedge fund with former Lehman Brothers broker John David Stroud. Their ventures included TS Capital Management and TS Capital Partners. The T stands for Tuberville and the S for Stroud.

Tuberville did not pick which stocks to buy or sell, and as the head football coach at Texas Tech University and later at the University of Cincinnati, he was not even a frequent presence in the office. Tuberville introduced Stroud to potential investors and even had business cards identifying himself as managing partner. He also leased a BMW and got his health insurance through the company.

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The firm’s offices in Auburn were filled with his coaching memorabilia. In 2010, he traveled to New York with Stroud to meet potential brokers, and was kept in the loop on decisions about hiring. A source told APR that a number of SEC coaches were among the people defrauded by TS Capital.

When the money was all lost, Stroud was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Tuberville was sued by the investors for fraud and failure to carry out his fiduciary duties. Tuberville reportedly lost $450,000 of his own money and then had to pay out more than $1 million to the investors. The New York Times reported that his total losses were more than $2 million.

The financial scandal has many Republicans concerned about the viability of Tuberville’s general election campaign to unseat incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.

“I think that Tuberville did not do anything wrong,” said Rev. John Killian, a conservative activist. “He is a good man, but the Doug Jones campaign, they would use this to the ninth degree.”

“They will shoot Tuberville up in 30 second and 60 second TV spots,” Killian added. “I don’t think Tuberville is crooked, but Doug Jones has $10 million to spend. I think they are lying in wait for Tuberville like they were for Roy Moore.”

Killian said that he will support Tuberville if he wins the Republican nomination, but that he is supporting Jeff Sessions in the primary because he is the strongest general election candidate to face Jones.

Tuberville supporter and Trump Victory National Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was dismissive of assertions that Tuberville could be vulnerable.

“Coach has a commanding lead. He will win the run-off, and he will crush Doug Jones in the general election in November,” Hooper told APR.

Tuberville maintains that he was a victim of the fraud — not a perpetrator.

“They sued me because I invested in it, and he used my name to get other people to put money in,” Tuberville said. “There was nothing ever implicated by anybody that I’d done anything wrong. I felt bad that he used my name.”

The New York Times has asked Tuberville to release the plaintiffs from their confidentiality agreement. Tuberville to this point has declined. Stroud has been released from prison but has not commented on his relationship with Tuberville. Tuberville faces Sessions in the July 14 Republican runoff.

President Donald Trump has endorsed Tuberville, and Tuberville is leading Sessions in most available polling.

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Lauderdale Republicans pass resolution defending Florence Confederate monument

Lauderdale County Republicans responded to calls to take down a local monument by passing a resolution urging elected leaders to oppose its removal.

Brandon Moseley

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Confederate statue in Florence, Alabama. (via Library of Congress)

The Lauderdale County Republican Executive Committee passed a resolution Thursday, by a unanimous vote, urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to take a stand and defend the Confederate monument in Florence.

The monument was erected to Alabamians who fought and died for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. A growing number of people today say that they fought to defend slavery and that Confederate monuments instead are symbols of white oppression over Black Americans and should be removed from public places.

The Lauderdale County Republicans responded to these calls to take down their local monument by passing a resolution urging elected leaders to oppose removing the monument.

The Lauderdale County GOP said in a statement that they are taking “a stand against the ‘cancel culture’ Marxists and passed this resolution.”

“We are urging the Lauderdale County Commission and Florence City Council to honor their oaths of office and follow the law! We are also calling on all of our elected officials to declare their position on the matter,” the statemeant read.

The resolution states that, “The Lauderdale County Monument to the men of the County who served in the Confederate Army in the War between the States 1861-1865 fought against oppressive taxation and for states’ rights in an army that included African-Americans in support and combat roles, was dedicated in 1903 and has stood in front of the county courthouse for 117 years.”

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The resolution alleges that: “There is a movement of liberal and radical organizations, not representatives of the majority of citizens of Lauderdale County which currently are attempting to destroy the  record of the courage and sacrifice of our ancestors in the United States.”

The cities of Birmingham and Mobile have already taken down their Confederate monuments in open defiance of existing state law in the state’s Memorials Preservation Act.

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Elections

Prichard Mayor Jimmy Gardner to run for reelection

Brandon Moseley

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Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner.

Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner said Monday in a statement that he will run for re-election. Gardner announced that he will deliver the letter announcing his intention to seek re-election, along with all qualifying documents, to the Prichard city clerk today at 10 a.m.

Gardner will hold a press conference after qualifying. He is promising to provide additional information about the campaign next week.

Gardner’s qualifying letter simply reads: “To Whom It May Concern: I, Jimmie Gardner, on this date, July 6, 2020 do humbly submit this letter to affirm that I will be seeking the office of Mayor for the City of Prichard, Alabama in the 2020 election.”

Gardner was elected mayor in the 2016 municipal elections, defeating incumbent Mayor Troy Ephriam.

“I have spent my entire career over 35 years protecting and serving the community in which I love,” Gardner stated. “My mission as Mayor is to ensure that the City of Prichard receives the recognition that it deserves. We are a strong, resilient people who care about their neighbors and want to see our city move in a positive direction.”

“As your Mayor, I pledge to give 100% to ensure that the progress this city deserves will begin,” Gardner continued. “I am not promising an overnight fix, but in time through prayer, hard work and dedication from everyone, The Change Will Come! Please patiently work with us as we make critical decisions for the betterment of the City of Prichard.”

The city of Prichard is in Mobile County and had a population of 21,531 in 2018. The city of Prichard had a population in 1993 of 38,410, but like much of Alabama, outside of pockets of prosperity, has been in decline in recent decades.

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Prichard was incorporated in 1925. The city boomed from ship building and the paper industry in the 1940s and 1950s, peaking like Mobile in 1960, but since then, the city has been negatively impacted by the decline in American shipbuilding and the closure of the International Paper and Scott paper mills in the 1980s.

Improving roads made it easier for people to commute to work so much of the city’s middle class has moved to new developments outside the city limits.

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