Hemp or dope, that's the question

Robert Smith |
Jerry Roberts, left, the emergency management director for Osage County, helps a law officer open a container of what may be industrial hemp or marijuana.

A traffic stop just before 3 a.m.Wednesday (Jan. 9) in Pawhuska led law officers to a transport truckload of what the people transporting it said was “industrial hemp,” Pawhuska Police Chief Rex Wikel said.

Wikel said one of his officers pulled over the 18-wheeler about 2:58 a.m. and a van stopped along with the truck. The explanation provided to the police officer conducting the traffic stop was that the van was providing security for the transport truck, Wikel said. He added that the officer conducting the stop called for backup. 

The truck was reportedly bound from Kentucky to Colorado.

By late morning Wednesday, a large section of the municipal parking area behind Pawhuska City Hall was the scene of a multiagency investigation by city, county, state and federal law officers. Pawhuska police handled security on the portion of the parking area being used. There were barricades and yellow crime scene tape. The transport truck and the van that pulled over with it were at the center of activity. Passersby had questions, such as, “Did someone die?” Television crews scrambled to get good images.

Law-enforcement involved in the investigation included federal drug-enforcement officers, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Osage County Sheriff’s Office and the Pawhuska Police Department, Wikel said. New district attorney Mike Fisher and members of his staff were present on the investigation scene, as well.

Wikel said the federal officers were taking over the investigation. Wikel said the material being shipped in the truck had field-tested positive for marijuana, but he clarified that industrial hemp can do that. He added that law officers found paperwork during the investigation that listed Illinois, Kansas and Texas as states to be avoided with the cargo in the truck.

Officers moved the transport truck from the municipal parking area downtown to the training center at the Osage County Sheriff’s Department, south of town, to unload the shipment. By early afternoon, law officers were busy breaking open containers and examining their contents.