The U.S. Hemp Industries Association (HIA) has closed down the website of the Kentucky HIA chapter amid an ongoing conflict between the national office and state organizations.
The interruption of the web site came after the Kentucky chapter voted unanimously against a waiver, rejecting a proposed agreement under which HIA is presumably trying to restructure its relationships with former state chapter representatives.
The national HIA earlier this year voted to shutter its network of local chapters after chapter representatives in the organization’s network complained they had not received funds owed them by the national headquarters.
“In addition to the money they owe us, they took down the domain because we wouldn’t sign a one-sided waiver of liability that favored them,” said Tate Hall, who served as Kentucky HIA’s president.
Additionally, Hall said his chapter spent about $6,000 on web services to develop the Kentucky HIA website independently as HIA’s national website went undeveloped. Kentucky HIA has about 300 members, Hall estimated, making it one of the biggest state chapters among 13 that made up the now shuttered network.
Kentucky is among state chapters in the HIA network that were wiped out by the national organization in June, amid the dispute over funds. Under an agreement struck when the chapter system was set up, HIA’s national office collected membership fees and disbursed half of that money back to the states where those memberships originated. HIA’s problems became public this spring after national president Rick Trojan informed the chapters in May that the organization was in danger of going bankrupt.
“We’ve had our questions about the membership list,” Hall said of the national office’s record keeping. “We always learned four months after the fact when somebody from Kentucky signed up because those memberships were always controlled by national HIA. The (national) website was confusing, and we asked them repeatedly to update it.”
HIA is now flogging an “Affiliation and Program Transition Agreement” to former chapter representatives through which it says it will “work diligently to establish a state and/or regional chapter program.” The Kentucky group rejected that agreement, and plans to reorganize as the Kentucky Hemp Association, according to Hall.
HIA posted a notice at kyhia.org blaming the website shutdown on “a dispute over certain content . . . which is the intellectual property of the Hemp Industries Association,” and alleging “KYHIA has repeatedly refused to remove content from its website” that “could damage HIA.”
Leaders of the former state chapters, meanwhile, say they are exploring legal options in the wake of their closure.