BNSF looks to 'weed' out marijuana shipments before they start

RELATED TOPICS: BNSF | COMMODITIES | CRIME | INTERMODAL
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With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Canada — and the expectation that pot will become a $5 billion business by 2020 — the rail industry now has a shipping code for cannabis and related products.

Effective Feb. 2, a new Standard Transportation Commodity Code, or STCC, went into effect to govern the shipment of cannabis and related products between Canadian provinces and territories. The codes are used on waybills and other shipping documents.

Export of marijuana remains illegal, but BNSF Railway isn’t taking any chances.

Last month, in a customer advisory, the railroad reminded intermodal shippers that the movement of cannabis and related products is prohibited in the United States.

“In accordance with U.S. federal law, BNSF does not permit the movement of cannabis on our network,” BNSF stated in the advisory. “We have recently added provisions to both the Intermodal Rules & Policies Guide and BNSF Rules Book 6100-Series ... clarifying that cannabis and associated products (including edibles) are prohibited items and are not accepted by BNSF, either directly or in interchange, for rail transportation. Shippers are responsible for all associated costs and expenses, including fines or penalties, resulting from the tendering of prohibited shipments.”

BNSF may be the first railroad to add cannabis to its list of prohibited products. Cannabis did not turn up among banned commodities in a search of publicly available data on the other Class I systems that operate in the U.S.

While several states have legalized recreational marijuana, it’s illegal to ship the product across state lines, even between states where pot is legal.

In October, Canada became the first developed nation to legalize recreational marijuana, which is now sold in a mixture of government-run and privately owned pot shops across the country. Edibles and other marijuana products become legal later this year under the country’s Cannabis Act.

Railinc, the North Carolina company that maintains STCC codes, says on its website that proposals for new codes come from various sources, including carriers, private industries, and individuals.

“STCC proposal requests are submitted to Railinc's Business Services Division using ‘Form for New STCC Identification’ attached to the STCC master or monthly supplements. Proposals are processed monthly by the STCC Committee, and if approved, the new STCC code and description are published concurrently with the STCC 6001 supplements,” the company’s website says.

The codes also apply to truck shipments.

The Steel Roads website supported by Railinc shows "Cannabis and associated products in" to have a code of 0119311. The product is also grouped under "Farm Products."

Railinc and railroads did not respond to requests for comment.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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