RAPID CITY, S.D. — A month after a Rapid City area prosecutor said he wouldn't prosecute CBD oil cases, law enforcement seized hemp-derived CBD oil they say contains THC from a Rapid City store.
The products were taken Thursday afternoon, May 23, from the Staple and Spice Market, a health foods store that has occupied the corner of St. Joseph Street and Mt. Rushmore Road since 1921, according to owner Carol Pugh.
"I thought it was safe to sell," Pugh said at her store Friday morning. "I did what I thought was my due diligence as a retailer of 28 years.
"I think I'm getting the shaft here," she said. "I think this is a war between the Pennington County Attorney's Office and the State's Attorney's Office"
The products were seized because they contain THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana that is considered illegal by both prosecuting agencies, the Rapid City Police Department said in a news release. The search was conducted by officers from the Rapid City police and Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, said Brendyn Medina, police spokesman.
"We recognize confusion exists regarding CBD products," Police Chief Karl Jegeris was quoted as saying. "However, we have the responsibility to take enforcement action regarding illegal drug distribution in our community, including products that contain THC."
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has said he considers all hemp and CBD oil illegal. Mark Vargo, Pennington County state's attorney, said last month that he won't prosecute hemp-derived CBD oil cases since it's not marijuana and not listed as illegal in South Dakota.
No one has been arrested, but the case has been passed along to the Pennington County State's Attorney Office for review, the news release said. Vargo did not immediately respond to interview requests, and it's unclear which law enforcement agency initiated the case and if the agency received a tip about the product, is visiting all stores that sell CBD or learned about the product in some other way.
Tim Bormann, spokesman for Ravnsborg, said the office's Division of Criminal Investigations wasn't involved with the investigation, search warrant or seizure, and the Attorney General's Office won't be prosecuting the case.
Pugh said Rapid City police officers and other law enforcement came into her store to serve the warrant around 4:50 p.m. on Thursday. The warrant, signed by a magistrate judge with an illegible signature from the state court in Rapid City, says officers can search for various products made by Plus CBD Oil, a San Diego-based company that creates hemp-derived CBD products.
An inventory sheet shows that officers took 16 individual or bundled packages. The items were worth about $3,000 and will be reimbursed by the manufacturer, Pugh said.
She said a Rapid City officer told her one of the agency's detectives previously purchased items from the store, tested them and found they are positive for THC. Pugh said the detective must have been undercover because her staff doesn't remember selling the products to a police officer.
Pugh admits that the seized products have a "trace amount" of the chemical but her other CBD products — which were left alone — have no THC. She said the Plus CBD Oil bottles say they have a THC concentration of .03%, and the federal farm bill allows industrial hemp to contain up to .3%.
"I think I'm in a gray area," Pugh said when asked why she carried the items if all THC products are illegal under state law. She said her 30 years in the Air Force taught her that "if there's a gray area, I'm going to stand for that. ... The people want this product and I'm wiling to put my reputation and my store's reputation on the line."
Debra White Plume, a 64-year-old Pine Ridge resident shopping for CBD oil Friday morning, said she uses the products for her arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions.
It's "real sad that a medicine from a plant that's supposed to help people is locked in jail," she said, adding that she knows many people who have been helped by CBD and THC.
White Plume also said she thinks there is a "better way" for law enforcement to spend their time.
Pugh says there are about 10 businesses in Rapid City that sell products from Plus CBD Oil and they hope there will soon be more clarity on issues related to CBD. "We don't know what the true rules are or what you are going to be held accountable for."
She said she feels the seizure goes against the Republican value of freedom. "I'm not sure that's where we're going with this."