Breeders talk about “unstable genetics,” meaning that a seed’s origin is unknown. Make sure that when you buy a packet of seeds that it or the breeder who produced them can list where the seeds came from and how they were crossed and/or backcrossed to get the seed that you hold in your hand. If you can’t get a seed’s history, it could be anything and the result of poor breeding practices.
Which strain should I grow?
All of this information should be available to you when buying quality seeds.
Because US federal law still prohibits cannabis, it can be hard to find information on seed banks and breeders. Breeders who have a long history and positive reputation are usually a good place to start. To get an idea of what well-established breeders look like, check out:
Before you purchase seeds online, you’ll need to figure out what strain you want to grow and what breeder you want to buy from.
As in the export context, all parties to an import transaction should be screened against the US restricted parties lists.
As the market for hemp derived CBD has exploded, there is increasing interest in international trade in these products and the materials used to make them, including in the United States. For example, a US-based manufacturer of hemp-derived CBD edibles might import the active ingredient for manufacturing and then export the finished product overseas. US-based companies could also be interested in importing or exporting raw materials such as industrial hemp, hemp seeds, or other hemp-derived products.
For similar reasons, state and local law enforcement have also stopped hemp crossing state lines, as illustrated by the Big Sky Scientific case in which Idaho troopers seized hemp on its way from Oregon to Colorado. In that case, the hemp was determined to have a THC content at or below .3%, which is legal under federal law, but illegal under Idaho state law. In short, it is clear that imports of CBD products have a greater chance of being stopped by CBP than other products. To avoid unnecessary delays or compliance issues, importers should ensure that CBD imports are accompanied by all required documentation, including phytosanitary certificates, and satisfy all other applicable CBP import documentation requirements, such as the entry summary or entry manifest (as applicable), commercial invoice clearly showing data elements required for customs clearance purposes, and packing list (if applicable).
If the products otherwise comply with US law, there is nothing under US customs laws that would prohibit importing them into the United States. In particular, CBP has confirmed publicly that hemp seeds can be imported into the United States. As with any other types of products, anything imported into the United States must be “classified” in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (“HTSUS”). Based on the HTSUS code, and the customs value and the country of origin of the good, the appropriate duties, if any, need to be paid. Importers can self-classify the products or submit an administrative ruling request to CBP prior to importation.
All of the parties involved in a proposed transaction should be screened against the US restricted parties lists on a transaction-specific basis (such as prior to order acceptance/shipping). Some of the main US restricted parties lists include OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Sectoral Sanctions Identifications List, and BIS’ Entity List and Denied Persons List. Depending on which list applies, the involvement of a restricted party could result in the transaction being prohibited or restricted. Also, entities that are 50% or more owned by certain kinds of restricted parties may themselves be restricted, even if not named on a list. Screening should include not only direct counterparties like customers and vendors but also banks, intermediaries, known end-users, etc. Restricted parties can be located anywhere in the world.
Notwithstanding the legality of these products, there continue to be reports of seizures of legal CBD products imported into the United States. This may be due to the difficulty of distinguishing legal (i.e., hemp-derived) CBD from illegal (i.e., marijuana-derived) CBD without extensive laboratory analysis, and/or it could be due to confusion on the part of CBP officials about what is permitted. For example, in a lawsuit filed in US District Court for the Central District of California, a US-based CBD company alleged that CBP had illegally seized four shipments of Spanish-origin hemp between 2015 and 2018. Three of the shipments are alleged to have been destroyed in part because CBP improperly determined the imports contained controlled substances, notwithstanding documentation from the Spanish growers that the hemp had less than 0.3% THC, making it legal under federal law. The lawsuit has since been settled.
How should you ensure compliance?