A highly publicized case regarding the transport of industrial hemp has come to a close. On Tuesday, August 6th, 2019 the marijuana-trafficking charges against Andrew Ross and David Dirksen were dropped by prosecutors, seven months after the business partners were arrested and charged. Each were facing 15 years to Life in prison based on the amount of industrial hemp, incorrectly identified as marijuana, that they were transporting.
The pair were slated for a status hearing on Wednesday, August 7th after a motion was filed a month ago by the buyers of the hemp asking for it to be released before it has all molded or become unusable.
On January 9th, 2019 at around 3:00 AM in the morning Pawhuska Oklahoma Police initiated a traffic stop on a tractor-trailer that allegedly failed to stop at a traffic light. The drivers of rig and it’s security detail were eventually all arrested and charged after several hours of confusion. Ross and Dirksen, the accompanying security officers, attempted to convince the officers that the cargo was legal industrial hemp but the local PD was convinced they had just stopped the largest marijuana bust in history.
Local District Attorney Mike Fisher released a statement last week stating he feels the security guards were “duped” into participating in the illegal shipment of 4,300 pounds of marijuana mixed in with an approximately 18,000-pound total load of “mostly hemp.” The released statement was also co-signed by defense attorneys.
Despite the 2018 Farm Bill that made industrial hemp legal and forbade blocking interstate transport, issues still exist.
A local Oklahoma outlet, Tulsa World, reached out to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry who oversees industrial hemp asking how hemp is handled in the state. The Agriculture Department recommended that hemp transporters carry a current license, a Certificate of Analysis and a copy of the license or contact information for the processor.
The Patriot Shield security guards, Ross and Dirksen, however said they went above and beyond those suggestions. Ross stated he had not only the certificates of lab analysis verifying THC levels but also the license and registration for both the buyer and supplier as well as certification from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
In May 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a legal opinion that reiterated that hemp is no longer a controlled substance and neith states nor tribes may prohibit its interstate shipment. Further regulations regarding hemp production authorities are expected later this year.
11 total samples were tested from the seized hemp shipment and the highest sample of all of those measured at 0.5% THC with a margin of error of 0.1 percent. Industrial Hemp is classified as any cannabis under 0.3% THC, with any amount above generally being deemed marijuana based on results obtained by Tulsa World. Despite these sample reports, District Attorney Fisher went on to a local radio station to claim that further testing done at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma found several samples that tested above 1% THC, however those results have never been publicly released.
Andrew Ross, 29, and David Dirksen, 31, of The Patriot Shield who were the security detail for the shipment spent a total of six days in jail before each posted a $40,000 bond on January 15th, the same day prosecutors charged them with aggravated trafficking of marijuana, expanding the charges and penalties.
The two semi-drivers, Tadesse Deneke, 51, and Farah Warsame, 33, spent nearly a month in jail as they were unable to post bond. DA Fisher eventually dropped the charges in March against these drivers at the urging of defense attorneys citing that his office determined it was apparent that neither was aware of the trailer’s contents they were told to haul.