Minnesota hemp grower has samples seized in mail
Ted Galaty says he was doing his due diligence when he mailed a package of industrial hemp to Colorado for testing.
ZUMBROTA — Ted Galaty says he was doing his due diligence when he mailed a package of industrial hemp to Colorado for testing.
After learning the lab hadn’t received his sample, Galaty looked up the package tracking Tuesday morning. The package status showed an "Alert" in large, red letters followed by, "Seized by Law Enforcement."
The package seizure is just the latest policy hurdle Galaty, owner of Hemp Maze Minnesota, has faced as state and federal policies are still being ironed out to regulate the fledgling industrial hemp industry.
On Wednesday afternoon, after Galaty had a short conversation with Rachel Williams, inspector and team leader of the U.S. Postal Service’s Contraband Investigation & Interdiction Team, the package was resealed and sent on its way to Colorado.
Galaty was mailing the hemp to have the level of THC it contains tested. Federal guidelines specify industrial hemp cannot contain 0.3% THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Galaty was testing the first of four planned indoor-grown hemp crops.
Under postal guidelines, the sender of any package containing industrial hemp must have proof the product was grown under a valid state license and have lab results showing the product contains less than 0.3% THC — the very results Galaty was hoping to obtain by sending his hemp for testing.
The certification he provided of the seeds that produced the plants allowed him to meet the requirements.
Galaty said he understood the due diligence postal inspectors need to perform.
"I’m not saying they’re in the wrong," he said. "We just need to work out a better way to do this."
The inconvenience isn’t only on hemp growers.
Because hemp resembles and smells like federally banned marijuana, dealing with hemp shipments has created extra work for inspectors.
"It creates an undue amount of work for us," Williams said.
Although some states have legalized marijuana, it remains a banned substance at the federal level.
"Obviously, we don’t want drugs in the mail," Williams said.
Galaty said he sent the samples to the Colorado lab for testing to save money. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will test hemp crops on site but charges $250 for each grow location compared to about $30 the Colorado company charges.
"It adds up when you have to test each crop in each location," Galaty said. "If you have five greenhouses, that’s five tests."
If the test shows higher than 0.3% THC, Galaty will have to destroy the crop.
"I’d rather not spend $250 and just find out I need to destroy the plants," he said.
The Minnesota Legislature established a pilot program for industrial hemp production for research purposes, as allowed under the 2014 Farm Bill passed by Congress.
The 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act and authorized states to establish industrial hemp production policies and allows interstate transport of hemp crops and CBD oil.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture drafted interim guidelines regulating licensing, transportation and testing of industrial hemp for growers in 2020.
Growers are also under Minnesota Department of Agriculture guidelines established in 2014, when the state established a hemp production pilot program. Sometimes those policies overlap, and some could be interpreted to contradict each other, he said.
Once hemp was legalized, the number of permitted growers in Minnesota surged from 43 in 2018 to 350 in 2019. The number of acres of hemp in the state rose from 1,258 to 15,310 in that same span.
However, with policies to navigate and few supply chains for hemp products, Galaty said he expects to see some early adopting hemp farmers to move away from the crop in the next couple growing seasons.
Galaty, a long proponent of the multifaceted plant, said he plans to stick with it.
"For us, it’s more about what this plant can do for the future for all of us," he said. "My feeling is, I want to be at the front of it."