Owners of store that sells hemp products found not guilty of drug charges

Nov. 19—The owners of three area stores that sell hemp and cannabidiol, or CBD products, were found not guilty of charges that alleged they were transporting marijuana.

Hunter Smetana, 24, and Colby Kluk, 25, both of West Wyoming, were charged in 2020 with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance after a Tunkhannock police officer during a traffic stop found them with about 6 pounds of product he believed to be marijuana.

Smetana and Kluk, owners of 3BUDS LLC, which has stores in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Wyoming, maintained the product was hemp, which looks and smells like marijuana. A jury in Wyoming County Court found the men not guilty this week after about four hours of deliberation, said their attorney, Curt Parkins.

The case centered on the level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in the product. Hemp and its byproducts are legal as long as the THC level is 0.3% or less, which means it can't get users "high." The law defines marijuana as having a THC level of 0.5% or more.

Parkins said some of the product Smetana and Kluk were transporting was over the THC level for hemp. They did not know that, however, because it was certified as hemp when they purchased it.

Parkins explained that the THC level of hemp increases over time. At the time the hemp they bought was tested in the field, the THC level was at the legal threshold. Because of a delay from the date it was certified as hemp and the date it was harvested, the level increased.

To be convicted of drug possession, the prosecution had to prove the men knew it was marijuana, he said.

"They bought it from a farm as hemp and the state certified it as hemp," Parkins said. "There was no evidence they knew it was a controlled substance."

Parkins said the case illustrates the quagmire facing businesses that deal with hemp and CBD products.

Smetana and Kluk said they hope a federal lawsuit they filed regarding their arrest will force the government to develop better policies going forward. That suit, which was stayed pending the outcome of the trial, can now proceed, he said.

"What we are trying to do with our civil lawsuit is bring attention to this and teach law enforcement they can't be doing this to innocent people," Parkins said. "There have to be safeguards in place to protect people from government overreach."

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tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137;

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