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DEA Going to the Mat in Federal Courts Over Legality of CBD

Maureen Meehan

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Remember just before Christmas, when the DEA quietly adopted a “Final Rule” criminalizing “marihuana extract,” presumably including all extracts from the cannabis plant?

Then, the agency went on to “clarify” that the Final Rule was based on the DEA’s own interpretation that weed extracts derived from mature cannabis or industrial hemp stalks were not illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and, furthermore, the ruling was meant to give priority to researchers.

Confusion and panic reigned across the land, especially from the burgeoning hemp industry, which has been developing countless innovative products, including plastics, and has seen the rise of an agricultural sector that could save the American farm.

And not to mention the fate of CBD extracts for medicinal purposes.

Hemp industry lawyers immediately took to the mat and filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Hemp Industries Association, Centuria Natural Foods and RMH Holdings LLC, which was intended to protect an American agricultural revival, attorney Bob Hoban told the Cannabist, in a special report.

“The entire industry hinges on this,” Hoban said.

Hoban, managing partner of Hoban Law Group, said that the action is clearly beyond the DEA’s authority.

“This Final Rule serves to threaten hundreds, if not thousands, of growing businesses, with massive economic and industry expansion opportunities, all of which conduct lawful business compliant with existing policy as it is understood and in reliance upon the Federal Government,” Hoban wrote on the firm’s website.

Hoban cautioned that the industry cannot sit on the sidelines, assuming state legalization and existing case law will shield producers, retailers and consumers of hemp-derived products.

It is now up to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to make a decision that could determine the course of the hemp industry, only recently revived after nearly eight decades, thanks to the 2014 Obama Farm Bill.

Although a decision in the 9th Circuit would be legally binding in only a collection of states and territories in the western United States, Hoban explained, it would at least clarify the DEA’s rule notice and set a precedent for the future.

The US Courts of Appeals for the 9th Circuit covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon and Washington.

Hoban called the appeal “the first inning of a very long ballgame.”

Meanwhile, hemp tries to make up for lost time.

A series of hemp pilot programs are underway around the country although they involve barely two percent of American farmers.

Before hemp was prohibited in 1937, that number was 30 percent, and our hemp was consider among the best in the world.

At least 16 states now have laws allowing cultivation of hemp for research and/or commercial purposes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and its production is raking in the dough.

The Hemp Business Journal calculated that last year the industry brought in an estimated $688 million in U.S. sales, with hemp-derived CBD accounting for around $130 million of that total.

So, can anyone guess why the DEA wants to put the kibosh on hemp and classify it as a Schedule 1 drug?

No? Neither can we. It seems incredibly counterproductive.

But then, so many decisions and actions taken by the DEA are beyond irrational and inexplicable. Just sayin’.

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