Pubdate: Sat, 23 Aug 2014
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2014 The New York Times Company
Author: Dave Philipps


WRAY, Colo. - Behind a tall curtain of corn that hides their real cash
crop from prying eyes, the Stanley family is undertaking an audacious
effort to expand their medical marijuana business to a national market.

For years, the five Stanley brothers, who sell a nonintoxicating
strain of cannabis that has gained national attention as a treatment
for epilepsy, have grown medical marijuana in greenhouses, under tight
state and federal regulations. But this year, they are not only
growing marijuana outdoors by the acre, they also plan to ship an oil
extracted from their plants to other states.

The plan would seem to defy a federal prohibition on the sale of
marijuana products across state lines. But the Stanleys have justified
it with a simple semantic swap: They now call their crop industrial
hemp, based on its low levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in

"The jump to industrial hemp means we can serve thousands of people
instead of hundreds," said Jared Stanley, 27, who wore muddy Carhartts
and a rainbow friendship bracelet as he knelt down to prune his plants.

Penn Mattison moved to Colorado from Tennessee last winter to acquire
oil extracted from the hemp plants by the Stanley brothers to treat
the seizures of his daughter, Millie, 2. Credit Matthew Staver for The
New York Times Colorado, which has legalized the sale of marijuana for
recreational and medical use, has accepted the new designation. But
the real question is whether the federal government will go along. If
it does, the impact would be significant, opening the door to
interstate sales not just by the Stanleys, but possibly by scores of
other medical cannabis growers across the country.

But if it does not, the Stanley brothers could be shut down by federal

So far, the Drug Enforcement Administration is offering few clues,
insisting in public statements that while it is willing to allow
marijuana sales in states that have legalized the drug, it might step
in if growers try to sell beyond state borders.

"Any chemical that comes from the plant is still a controlled
substance," said Dawn Dearden, an agency spokeswoman. "When we get
into hemp, it gets a little squishy, but it still is illegal."

The Stanleys' quest to ship their oil to other states highlights the
fraught marijuana legal landscape where state and federal laws
conflict and federal agencies can have divergent policies, leaving
laws sometimes enforced, and sometimes not.

"This is the mode we will be in for some time," said Sam Kamin, a law
professor at the University of Denver who studies cannabis law. "As
marijuana becomes more legal in more states for more purposes, the
tension with the federal law will become more pronounced."

Mr. Mattison prepares the treatment for his daughter. Credit Matthew
Staver for The New York Times The hazy legality of hemp can be seen in
products like hemp granola and shampoo, which are allowed to fill
health food store shelves even though they technically violate federal
drug laws. All those products are made from imported hemp, which has
generally been permitted into the country so long as it has less than
0.3 percent THC.

If the Stanleys ship their oil, industry watchers say, it will be the
first time in decades anyone has tried to sell domestic hemp nationwide.

In recent years, hundreds of families with epileptic children have
moved to Colorado to try oil made from the Stanleys' shrubby strain,
which they call Charlotte's Web. The national Epilepsy Foundation has
called for it to be available to all patients, though formal research
into its effectiveness remains scant. There is a nationwide waiting
list of more than 9,000, which the brothers hope to eliminate by
expanding their crop from small greenhouses into vast hemp fields.

Continue reading the main story "We are hoping the enforcement
agencies have bigger fish to fry and don't want to take a bunch of
medicine away from sick kids," Mr. Stanley said. "But if they are
going to do it, we're all in. If you are going to be locked up, it's a
thing worth getting locked up for."

The brothers, who had a Christian upbringing in conservative Colorado
Springs, started a small medical marijuana business in 2008 after
seeing the relief it brought to a relative sick with cancer. At first,
they grew mostly marijuana high in THC that packed a serious
psychoactive punch. On the side, they experimented with breeding
plants low in THC but high in another cannabinoid known as
cannabidiol, or CBD, which scientific studies suggested was a powerful
anti-inflammatory that a handful of small studies showed might have
potential as a treatment for certain neurological conditions,
including seizures and Huntington's disease.

For years, this variety languished unused in a corner of their
greenhouse. "No one wanted it because it couldn't get you high," said
Joel Stanley, 34, the oldest brother and head of the family business.
They named the plant "Hippie's Disappointment."

Nicole Mattison with her daughter, Millie, who has seizures and finds
relief in an oil extract from hemp plants, at home in Colorado
Springs. Credit Matthew Staver for The New York Times Then, in 2012, a
Colorado mother named Paige Figi came seeking CBD-rich marijuana oil
for her 5-year-old daughter Charlotte, who has a genetic disorder
called Dravet syndrome, which caused hundreds of seizures per week.

After a few doses of oil made from Hippie's Disappointment,
Charlotte's seizures all but stopped, and two years later, daily drops
of oil keep her nearly free of seizures, Ms. Figi says. The Stanleys
renamed the plant Charlotte's Web.

Charlotte's story spread, and patients began moving to Colorado. About
200 families now use the oil, and many have seen significant
reductions in seizures, according to Dr. Margaret Gedde, a Colorado
physician who recently conducted a small survey of the patients.
Though few have seen their seizures totally disappear, nearly 80
percent told Dr. Gedde that the oil was more effective than
traditional pharmaceuticals, with fewer side effects.

People from around the world started contacting the brothers. "We
didn't have enough Charlotte's Web," Jared Stanley said. "Under
medical marijuana laws, we could never have enough. And there were a
lot of people who couldn't just drop their lives to come to Colorado
to get it."

Colorado medical marijuana law restricted production by requiring
limited plant counts, locked greenhouses with security cameras and
costly "seed to sale" tracking for every plant. The law also required
every milligram of Charlotte's Web to remain in Colorado. But last
year, Colorado voters passed a law legalizing industrial hemp -
defined as cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC - allowing farmers
to grow it with few restrictions. Charlotte's Web falls well below
that level, the Stanleys say. Recreational marijuana typically has THC
levels around 15 percent.

Because United States Customs and Border Protection has also used the
0.3 percent THC level for determining whether to allow imported hemp
into the country, the Stanleys say they can legally ship their oil.
But the D.E.A. maintains that the Controlled Substances Act holds that
all cannabis, whether called marijuana or hemp, is illegal.

The plants at a greenhouse in Wray, Colo. Credit Matthew Staver for
The New York Times Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the
main story People in the hemp industry say it is hard to foresee the
agency's response. The Bush administration cracked down on all hemp in
2003, saying whether soap, cereal, vegetable burgers or hemp cheese,
any product with a trace of THC could be seized. A federal appeals
court blocked the action in 2004 before it took effect.

The Obama administration has generally deferred to states on the
question of cannabis, allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado and
Washington and medical use in 21 additional states, and in the
District of Columbia, provided sales followed certain criteria. But in
the last four months, the D.E.A. has seized thousands of pounds of
nonintoxicating industrial hemp seeds, including a shipment bound for
a research project at the University of Kentucky.

Though the Stanleys maintain that shipping hemp oil is legal, they
have hedged their bet by working with Representative Scott Perry,
Republican of Pennsylvania, to introduce a bill in late July that
would exempt Charlotte's Web and other "therapeutic hemp" from the
federal definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

Amid the uncertainty, the brothers are pressing forward. They have
moved oil production from a commercial kitchen to a sterile lab
staffed by scientists from the pharmaceutical industry. Having planted
17 acres of hemp in Colorado this year, they plan to plant 200 next

They plan to start shipping their oil as soon as they fill their
waiting list of orders in Colorado, which they expect to do this fall.
They are also setting up a 1,000-acre hemp farm in Uruguay, which
recently legalized both marijuana and hemp, to handle global sales. In
five years, they hope to have 3,000 acres growing in different states
and countries.

Many of their workers are parents or siblings of children who rely on
the oil. Penn Mattison, who moved to Colorado from Tennessee last
winter to treat the seizures of his 2-year-old daughter, Millie, is

Mr. Mattison said that after starting to use the oil in March, his
daughter's seizures dropped by 90 percent. Other children should have
the same opportunity without having to move to Colorado, he said.
"It's something they are desperate for, and we know what being
desperate is all about," he said as he trimmed the leaves of some
Charlotte's Web. "We were there."

A version of this article appears in print on August 24, 2014, on page
A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Bid to Expand Medical
Marijuana Business Faces Federal Hurdles . Order Reprints|Today's
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