Congress is pushing back on a recent Drug Enforcement Agency interim rule on hemp. A bipartisan group of 9 House members and Oregon’s senators sent separate letters to the DEA this week explaining how they think its treats hemp like a controlled substance, even after Congress legalized it in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both Democrats from Oregon, wrote a letter to DEA Acting Administrator Tim Shea Thursday voicing “strong objections” to the interim final rule (or IFR). They say it will discourage American hemp farmers by treating it the same as substances like heroin and LSD.
Farmers are already fearful of the interim rule’s possible consequences, and are turning away from producing hemp, which is negating the intention of the Farm Bill, according to Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) who spearheaded their own letter in the House.
“Our offices have received countless calls from constituents involved in the hemp industry who are extremely fearful that simply following the provisions of the Farm Bill will result in criminal liability under the IFR,” the House members wrote the DEA. “The IFR will likely have the effect of inhibiting these nascent state hemp programs thereby harming those American companies and workers who chose to pursue careers in the hemp industry and made significant investments to effectuate those aspirations.”
The bill was carefully crafted to allow farmers back into the hemp industry.
“The IFR purports to merely implement the 2018 Farm Bill when, if fact, it does significantly more,” the senators wrote.
The IFR will treat hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance at any point its THC content exceeds 0.3% THC.
“The final rule clarifies that all hemp derivatives or extracts exceeding 0.3% delta-9-THC shall remain Schedule I controlled substances at any point in their processing,” the senators continued.
Both letters carefully explain that everyone in the industry understands that at various times in its processing, some hemp extracts can temporarily exceed 0.3%. This is why Congress carefully defined hemp’s THC content based on its delta-9 THC level and why hemp’s THC content is considered on a dry weight basis (dry weight measurements are commonly taken from the initial plant and final product).
This is the same argument used by many in the industry who say the DEA has no business messing with an agricultural product. A hemp company in South Carolina recently sued the DEA over the interim rule.
“The 0.3 percent THC legal limit is an arbitrary, impractical, euphoria-phobic relic of reefer madness,” reads a post on Project CBD’s webpage. “Although it lacks a scientific basis, it has become the latest linchpin of cannabis prohibition, a dishonest, anachronistic policy that impedes medical discovery and blocks patient access to valuable therapeutic options, including herbal extracts with various combinations of CBD and THC.”
Growing hemp for CBD is difficult enough. And these are minuscule amounts of delta-9 THC. A hemp crop or oil that tests at 0.4 percent, or 0.7 percent, or 1.0 percent delta-9 THC—the number most farmers believe should be the standard—could never be sold as recreational or medical cannabis. Most legal cannabis begins at around 15 percent delta-9 THC and goes up from there.
The senators also noted that the 2018 Farm Bill completely removed hemp from the purview of the DEA, and designated the Department of Agriculture with the responsibility of enacting regulations and guidelines for hemp production.
“In effect, the IFR criminalizes the intermediate steps of hemp processing, which is wholly inconsistent with Congress’s clearly stated purpose and the text of the 2018 Farm Bill,” the senators wrote. “In our view, the IFR rewrites the 2018 Farm Bill contrary to Congressional intent.”