A number of Yankton businesses found themselves breaking the law — and were completely unaware of it.
The businesses were selling products such as oils and gummies which utilized cannabidiol (CBD), unaware that these products are actually illegal in the state.
YPD Det. Joe Erickson, who is also one of the department’s drug recognition experts (DRE), told the Press & Dakotan that the YPD became suspicious due to a spike in positive drug tests at various businesses over the last few months.
"We were given knowledge that stores were starting to sell these substances," Erickson said. "A lot of that stemmed from people having THC in their urine samples when they provided them. They said, ‘I wasn’t using marijuana, but I was using these substances. That kind of threw up some red flags for us. We began investigating which stores were selling it, how much were they selling, to what extent."
He said that the YPD visited six businesses selling various products with CBD in them and gave owners the option to voluntarily turn over their products for further study.
Erickson said that CBD is legal across the country — technically.
"As far as being legal, almost everything we saw in the stores said it’s legal in all 50 states," he said. "This is legal in South Dakota with a valid prescription. Since the FDA has approved it, to my knowledge, it’s only available in one form and that’s a substance called Epidiolex."
Epidiolex is used in the treatment of epilepsy.
CBD itself is listed as a Schedule IV drug, falling in with anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medicines.
Without a prescription, possession of any CBD-containing product in South Dakota can land a person in legal trouble.
"The issues is all of these people I’ve seen saying, ‘We can’t get it at the stores in Yankton. Just get it online,’" he said. "The difficulty that sits in your lap now is that if you were to get stopped and found with that, you could be arrested for a felony."
Punishment for possession of a Schedule IV drug without a prescription can include up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Dr. Timothy Soundy, chairman and professor of psychiatry at the University of South Dakota’s Sanford School of Medicine, told the Press & Dakotan that cannabidiol stands apart from other elements of marijuana.
"When you think of the marijuana plant, there’s (about) 120 cannabinoids," he said. "THC is one of them. THC is the one that causes the euphoria and the high. Cannabidiol is just one."
He said that there is a belief that cannabidiol can help with issues such as pain management, anxiety, inflammation and seizures.
However, there’s a major issue when it comes to proving the compound’s usefulness.
"There’s not been years of research on it — it’s been in the last 10," Soundy said. "Some of it has the potential to be promising, but there isn’t a ton of research — one, because nobody is doing it. … There’s no big trials. There’s been case reports, small studies but nothing very big or elaborate like you would do for a pharmaceutical trial."
Soundy said some research is happening with Harvard University at this time, but no major studies are ongoing.
Back in Yankton, Erickson said many of the products they were finding in stores around Yankton contained more than just cannabidiol.
"(Cannabidiol) is a resin extracted from the stalk of a hemp plant," he said. "Oftentimes, there’s a lot of cross-contamination that comes with hemp and marijuana plants. … (THC) is not supposed to be in cannabidiol; unfortunately, with that cross-contamination, almost every substance we sent to the lab came back with THC in it. Almost every CBD product that we took from stores that said it was THC-free came back with THC in it."
Lt. Todd Brandt told the Press & Dakotan that the store owners were very helpful once told the laws.
"The community’s been cooperative with us in removing it from the city and we appreciate that," Brandt said. "We followed the proper channels to determine whether or not (the products) were in fact illegal, it was so we’re taking the proper steps now of destroying the product."
YPD Chief John Harris said no store owners were charged with any crimes.
"We went out, we talked to them, we educated the business owners, we had it tested for them and now the ones we found to be illegal substances will be destroyed according to law," Harris said.
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