Last month marked the start of the typical marijuana grow season, which runs March through November, which meant individuals and large cannabis firms in — April 21, 2019 Michael Moss wants to help other patients with his mail-order cannabis seed business. He says a legal loophole allows it. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has recognised cannabis seeds as hemp as long as they don’t exceed the THC limit of 0.3%. This clarification
Legal Issues in Selling Cannabis Seeds in California
Last month marked the start of the typical marijuana grow season, which runs March through November, which meant individuals and large cannabis firms in California were on the hunt for high-quality seeds for purchase on the legal market. Cannabis seeds are at the core of the California marijuana industry, and the internet can connect farmers from San Diego to San Francisco and beyond to the growing demand.
But are sales of cannabis seeds legal? Some growers serve both the grey and legal market marijuana seeds.
As the legal cannabis market has expanded, selling cannabis seeds has become more commonplace, especially as consumers’ tastes become more refined. Still not all cannabis seed sales are lawful.
Genetic Seed Variations Can Be Protected Intellectual Property
Los Angeles marijuana lawyers recognize there is great diversity in seed genetics, and advise companies to seek counsel before arranging any kind of retail sale or transport.
Many marijuana growers pride themselves on their extensive knowledge of marijuana growth, which obviously begins with the seed. The three basic types of cannabis seeds are regular, autoflowering and female, with each containing broad subtypes, often referred to as “strains.” Many cannabis cultivators pride themselves on various elements of the strains they grow, as the effects can vary widely depending on seed properties. Certain strains are better for those seeking medicinal relief, while others are better for creating various degrees of intoxication and still others for a distinct taste. Growers are increasingly asserting intellectual property rights, something all cultivators should discuss with their cannabis business attorney.
Cannabis Seed Sales and California Law
Laws pertaining to sales of marijuana seeds or associated products vary a great deal in the U.S. and beyond, in part because there is a general lack of understanding on how they should be defined. Some consider seed sales ancillary to the cannabis market, but the reality is because these are part of the cannabis plant (or rather, its origins) these too are controlled.
Generally speaking, cannabis seeds can be lawfully purchased by adults states with legal adult recreational use (like California) either at a dispensary or online intrastate (meaning not purchased from another state – even one that has also legalized the drug). The reason for this restriction is that interstate sales fall under the purview of federal law, which still considers marijuana a dangerous narcotic.
Los Angeles marijuana dispensaries routinely sell pot seeds over-the-counter, and cost is roughly $12 for a pack of 10, though higher-end strains can run several hundred dollars. Dispensary options are limited compared to what one might find online at a California cannabis seed bank.
The California Cannabis Control Board in accordance with Prop. 64 caps the maximum number of cannabis plants that can be grown by an individual at any given time at six. That assumes you’re over 21 and aren’t doing so in a community that has a local ordinance banning or further restricting such cultivation.
Those selling cannabis seeds in California, either in-store or online, need to be certain procedures are in place to prevent sales to restricted buyers (mostly minors).
Buying, selling or transporting those seeds out-of-state though is where things can get dicey.
International Weed Seed Sales
Internationally, many countries don’t restrict or regulate cannabis seed sales, as the seeds have a myriad of benign uses. These can include production of clothing material, oils and food for animals/fishing bait.
However, other countries are much more strict about what can be imported and for what purpose. Los Angeles cannabis lawyers strongly advise anyone conducting international sales of any cannabis product to consult with an attorney. Failure to do so could affect your pocketbook (if customs in another country refuses to allow your shipment to reach its final destination). However, it can also draw the attention of U.S. law enforcement agents, with the possibility of criminal charges.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
Pipe Dream? Arizona Man Believes Legal Loophole Lets Him Sell Pot Seeds
Michael Moss was a welder until degenerative disc disease forced him into an early retirement. In 2011, he moved to Arizona for the climate, landing in the small Navajo County city of Show Low.
What followed was a series of surgeries that sandwiched the broken vertebrae in the middle of his spine between 24 screws in his neck and six lag bolts in his lower back.
When the heavy, opioid-based painkillers doctors prescribed him left him emaciated and like a “zombie,” he turned to medical marijuana. But the high-potency medicine he needed cost as much as $400 a week. That was unaffordable on disability pay, so he started growing his own.
After a bad experience buying seeds, Moss decided to start selling them himself to offer a better alternative. These days, the 48-year-old entrepreneur is bringing in an estimated $1,000 a month by selling seeds openly on the internet.
“I’m just trying to help people. No one was there to help me,” Moss told Phoenix New Times.
The business is not illegal because the seeds are marketed as “souvenirs,” he said, according to advice he received from an attorney with a prepaid legal service.
However, postal authorities say there is no such loophole, and that Moss could face serious repercussions.
Moss is one of the few U.S.-based cannabis seed vendors and offers what he said is the largest seed collection in Arizona. He has 100 different strains he sells through his website and hopes to have added an additional 100 by next year. Among the payment options accepted: Venmo, Facebook Pay, a Walmart wire transfer and mailed checks. Most of his earnings go back into the business, he said.
While a growing number of states, including Arizona, have legalized recreational or medical marijuana, transporting marijuana products across state borders is a federal offense. Members of Arizona’s cannabis industry joke that the seeds to start state-approved grow ops blew across the border from California in the wind.
Moss openly admits to mailing seeds across state borders. He buys seeds from growers in Washington, California, Oklahoma, and Michigan. People in Oklahoma made up his biggest customer base for a while. While there are “seed banks” in Europe, purchasers carry the risk of having their seeds intercepted by customs officials if not properly disguised. Seeds shipped within the United States don’t have that problem.
After consulting with lawyers at LegalShield, a prepaid legal insurance service, Moss said he believes what he is doing is legal as long as the seeds are sold as souvenirs or collectors items to people over the age of 21. His website and pop-up stores carry disclaimers saying as much.
“Once they leave me, it’s up to [buyers] to abide by their state laws,” Moss said, acknowledging that he will help offer general advice about cultivating cannabis to anyone who calls.
Not only is Moss operating in the open, but his Venmo feed is public, showing the names of purchasers and their order numbers. Discretion isn’t in the business plan: He used some of his savings to get a car decorated with weed decals and the name of his business, MossMSeeds. Soon, he’s going to add neon lighting to the ride and a smoke machine. He gave an interview to the White Mountain Independent for an article about his business last month, and Moss comes to the Valley on weekends for events and podcast interviews.
“I’m a handicapped, disabled guy trying to keep myself well and it’s just a plant,” he said. “The wheelchair is coming. That’s why I’m trying to make a mark.”
Plant or not, federal authorities don’t take kindly to distributing pot seeds in the mail.
Liz Davis, a spokesperson for the Phoenix division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said that while marijuana is legal in some states, it’s federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act and cannabis seeds are therefore illegal to mail. The inspection service aggressively pursues people who traffic in all forms of illegal narcotics, she said.
“Honestly, as Postal Inspectors, we don’t really care what someone purports to be selling. If it is illegal to mail, it is illegal to mail,” Davis wrote in an email. “Our mission as inspectors is to ensure the mail is safe for our employees and our customers. Whether stated as a souvenir or having an agricultural purpose, it is still a controlled substance and therefore nonmailable. USPS Letter Carriers have been killed delivering parcels containing controlled substances. If it is a nonmailable item, we do not want it in the mail.”
Davis added that if New Times shared Moss’ name and contact information, they would investigate further. New Times declined her offer. But Moss isn’t hiding.
Phoenix cannabis attorney Tom Dean said Moss is facing serious legal jeopardy.
“My advice to him is not to do it,” said Dean, a former legal director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) who has practiced cannabis law for over 20 years. Even if someone has a “clever” defense, most don’t get a chance to use it because that would require going to trial and facing mandatory prison time if it doesn’t work. Instead, they take a plea deal. In this case, “there’s no grey area,” Dean said.
When New Times asked Moss about what Dean said, he cited a different website selling seeds that claims marijuana seeds are legal in Arizona since they don’t contain THC or CBD. He also pointed out that he had obtained a license from the state to sell agricultural seeds at his lawyer’s advice.
That’s no good, according to Dean. For one, un-sterilized seeds are explicitly considered marijuana for the purposes of Arizona and federal law, meaning that selling them within Arizona requires a license. Even if selling seeds was legal in Arizona, transporting them between states and in the mail is a federal offense.
“The seed dealer’s license doesn’t mean he can sell illegal drugs,” Dean said.
It’s unclear how much emphasis federal or state authorities may put on cracking down on people like Moss, Dean said. But based on how they’ve handled medical marijuana, local law enforcement may face pressure from the cannabis industry to crack down on unlicensed growers and avoid a free-for-all. People who buy from Moss are unlikely to face prosecution, but it’s not out of the question.
“Good intentions are not a defense. Being mistaken is not a defense. And law enforcement could care less about that kind of thing,” he said.
While Moss is small-time compared to some other online seed vendors, the federal government has cracked down hard on similar businesses in the past.
In 2005, Western District of Washington U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, now mayor of Seattle, had the head of the British Columbia Marijuana Party extradited to the United States on charges of selling marijuana seeds to Americans through the mail. Marc Emery claimed to be making $3 million a year from the sales and was eventually sentenced to five years in prison.
David Williams, the general counsel for the law firm Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, PLLC, which provided Moss his advice through LegalShield, said he could not comment or acknowledge whether Moss was a client of the firm due to attorney-client confidentially. In an email sent to Moss, and shared with New Times, he said they provided him limited advice but do not comment on their work to the media.
Despite Dean’s warning, Moss said on Wednesday he plans to continue his business based on the advice he says he got from the LegalShield attorney and what he’s read online.
“It is kind of concerning, but at the same time I’m going to keep doing what I got to do,” he said. “If they want to pick on a disabled guy over a plant … I’m a disabled guy who doesn’t want to be on pain meds and this is what helps me.”
“I bet he never Googled it,” he added of Dean.
In an interview the next day, Moss told New Times he had Googled local cannabis attorneys, calling as many as he could. He spoke to one on Thursday morning who told him he was at some risk but that the lawyer’s “gut feeling” was that authorities wouldn’t come after him. That made Moss feel better. At the attorney’s recommendation, he’s going to start including the disclaimer from his website in each package.
“I feel a lot safer at this point,” Moss said.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE. Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we’d like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it’s more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our “I Support” program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Marijuana seeds are legal in the U.S. as long as they don’t exceed the THC limit for hemp
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has recognised cannabis seeds as hemp as long as they don’t exceed the THC limit of 0.3%. This clarification makes them legal under the 2018 Farm Bill and it means that seeds can be shipped legally to anywhere in the country, which opens up a wide range of possibilities for the spreading of the genetic diversity of cannabis across the nation’s markets.
Marijuana may currently be banned by the federal government, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has effectively recognised that the plant’s seeds are legal, regardless of how much THC they may end up producing when grown.
This means that cannabis growers can get their seeds from anywhere without having to worry about breaking federal law. Previously, and due to the federal ban, cannabis seeds were restricted to the state where they were produced, so a variety bred and grown in one state couldn’t legally go beyond the limits of that state.
The DEA recently conducted a review of the federal statute in response to a query from attorney Shane Pennington, who inquired about the legality of cannabis seeds and cuttings, and tissue cultures or ‘other genetic material’ containing no more than 0.3% THC.
After the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp was excluded from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which means that currently all parts of the Cannabis sativa L. plant are not controlled, but only as long as they don’t exceed 0.3% THC.
“As a result, those marijuana seeds with a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of no more than 0.3% in dry weight meet the definition of ‘hemp’ and are therefore not controlled by the CSA”, states Terrence L. Boos, head of the DEA’s Drug and Chemical Evaluation Section, in a letter dated 6th January 2022. This comment was made in response to the issues raised by Shane Pennington, who has an extensive history of litigation against the agency on cannabis matters and drug policy.
Both hemp and marijuana seeds generally contain low THC levels, which don’t exceed the legal threshold, and so the DEA essentially permits the purchase of cannabis seeds, no matter how much THC the resulting plant may produce, provided the seeds themselves contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC.
Nevertheless, it’s important to say that the use of any cannabis seeds with the intention of growing marijuana remains illegal at federal level, since the plant is still banned.
Was it illegal to sell marijuana seeds before?
Until now, cannabis strains have been isolated in the regions where they have been created or where they’ve arrived from other countries, as they couldn’t be transported beyond state borders. For example, although recreational marijuana is legal state-wide in both California and Oregon, moving a plant from one of those states to another is illegal at federal level. This forces cannabis growers and breeders to operate within the limits of the state.
Many cannabis breeders and seed banks sell seeds throughout the U.S. but operate in a legal ‘grey area’. Generally, the labels show that the seeds are sold as a collector’s item or a souvenir, which provides a way to circumvent the law. But if authorities find cannabis seeds in the mail, they may seize them and arrest the sender or recipient, although this is not common. However, all of that could have changed in 2018 without anyone actually knowing about it.
Definition of ‘source’ as opposed to ‘material’
In 2018, the U.S. Congress passed a Farm Bill for the legalisation of hemp in the country. ‘Hemp’ was defined as any cannabis plant with a THC level below 0.3%. With this bill, hemp can be grown and used for industrial purposes. The 2018 bill also permits hemp production for the creation of cannabinoids other than THC, such as CBD or delta-8 THC.
Cannabis seeds have always been considered illegal because they come from plants with high THC levels. As the source of the seeds has THC levels over 0.3%, anything that comes from those plants (including the seeds) has also been considered illegal cannabis.
But in November 2021, Shane Pennington, attorney at the law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP in New York, wrote to DEA officials asking for clarification on the definition of growing cannabis seeds, clones, and tissue cultures. Mr. Pennington argued that it’s not the source of the material but the material itself that determines its legality, which means that a cannabis seed with less than 0.3% THC should be classified as hemp. And if the seeds are hemp, then they’re not a controlled substance, and are therefore legal at federal level.
What implications does this have for the cannabis industry?
If the DEA and the federal government permit seeds to move freely across the country, anyone would then be able to grow seeds from anywhere in their own state and certain strains would no longer be confined to a specific region. This could potentially trigger interest in investment, the development of a larger industry, and greater acceptance of the plant, as well as the expansion of the area of genetic innovation. The removal of transportation barriers between states would open up the genetic pool of cannabis, which would in turn provide breeders with a greater diversity of strains to work with.
According to Pennington, the federal law seems to be more flexible than expected, and so perhaps the biggest implication is that this sends a clear signal to state regulators. In fact, DEA officials last year clarified to the regulatory authorities that delta-8 THC, an increasingly popular psychoactive cannabinoid, was also not a controlled substance under existing law, because the 2018 Farm Bill that legalised hemp doesn’t explicitly prohibit THC isomers.
The states follow the DEA’s lead by creating their own drug laws, so watching the government agency relax its stance on cannabis seeds could get these states to do the same, thereby breaking protectionist state laws.
However, it’s important to highlight that, even though the DEA calls it ‘an official determination’, it is still not entirely clear whether they are legally bound to this position. For now, the DEA’s recognition that seeds, cuttings, and cannabis tissue cultures are not controlled substances is not a law, but it does signify a big step forward in easing the restrictions on marijuana.
Kannabia Seeds Company sells to its customers a product collection, a souvenir. We cannot and we shall not give growing advice since our product is not intended for this purpose.
Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.
- Which Europeans are the most supportive of the legalisation of cannabis? Previous news
- How do cannabis terpenes contribute to the entourage effect? Next news
What’s the position of the 53 states that will decide whether the UN lowers cannabis control?
The UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has once again postponed the decision to lower cannabis control until December of this year. Based on the recommendation made .
Which Europeans are the most supportive of the legalisation of cannabis?
A recent survey shows that 55% of Europeans support the widespread legalisation of marijuana for adult use. In addition, most cannabis advocates in Europe are also in favour of home cultivation and regulated retail .