DEA Recognizes Existence of Industrial Hemp

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Recognizes Existence of Industrial Hemp – But It’s Not Enough

By Andy Kerr

NAIHC.orgWashington, August 17, 2016 – I am very pleased to report that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has officially recognized “industrial hemp” – and on the home page of their website no less, leading readers to the latest DEA news on marijuana and industrial hemp.

As a matter of law, industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa with <1% THC by dry weight, the intoxicating ingredient in marijuana) has long been lumped into the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 definition of “marihuana.”

Since its establishment, NAIHC has sought to remove industrial hemp from the federal drug schedules, including recently being lead petitioner on an official rulemaking petition under the federal Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. The petition asks DEA to exempt industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.

 As a matter of fact, industrial hemp is not marijuana. Over 27 U.S. states have so distinguished, as have most industrial democracies.

Until now, DEA has steadfastly refused to recognize the distinction. However, the DEA’s acknowledgement of “industrial hemp” is limited to the definition in Section 7606 of the 2014 farm bill:

INDUSTRIAL HEMP.—The term ‘‘industrial hemp’’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis

It’s not a bad definition. The rulemaking petition, however, suggests <1% THC to allow for a greater variety of industrial hemp strains to be cultivated, while still providing that industrial hemp could not be used as marijuana. Accordingly, DEA’s <0.3% standard is botanically and commercially unduly limited.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in consultation with DEA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly issued a “statement of principles” on how the federal government will be treating the limited opportunities to cultivate industrial hemp under the farm bill.

To USDA, DEA and FDA, a thing called “industrial hemp” only exists if it is:

  • C. sativa with <0.3% THC;
  • grown in a state that has legalized industrial hemp;
  • authorized and overseen by a state department of agriculture or academic institution;
  • only for the purposes of an agricultural pilot program to study the growth, cultivation or marketing of such industrial hemp; and
  • such industrial hemp plants and seeds may not be transported across state lines. The industrial hemp can be sold within a state, but only for the purposes of marketing research.

Though progress, the agricultural pilot program provided by Congress in the farm bill does not generally legalize industrial hemp. We hope DEA will respond favorably to our official rulemaking petition.

Andy Kerr of The Larch Company is a founding and current board member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council. He is co-author of a recent official rulemaking petition to the Drug Enforcement Administration to remove industrial hemp from the federal drug schedules. He splits his time between Ashland, OR and Washington, DC.