Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp

America's leading advocate for hemp

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Legal Hemp In The USA: What The 2018 Farm Bill Means For US Hemp & Agriculture

Just signed into law today by Pres. Donald Trump, the 2018 Farm Bill completely removes hemp and anything made from hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. Here’s our first look at what this means for the future of American hemp growing.

The United States just legalized hemp.

Pres. Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, better known as the 2018 Farm Bill, earlier today. This omnibus bill includes numerous programs and policy changes, not all of which are related to agriculture. For hemp supporters and industry professionals, it’s a cause for celebration. Hemp is now out of reach of the Drug Enforcement Administration and, with a few notable exceptions, closer to being treated like any other crop.

“It’s been a long time coming and a lot of people have put a lot of effort in to get [legal hemp] to happen,” said Courtney Moran, founding principle of Earth Law, LLC, a firm that specializes in hemp law.

Spearheaded this year by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the hemp legalization amendment was inspired by previous efforts from Rep. James Comer, and decades of advocacy work by hemp supporters nationwide. Legalizing hemp had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Legislators softened the most problematic clause in the amendment, which bans some people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry, during negotiations between the two chambers.

One remaining uncertainty is CBD oil, the massively popular healing supplement made from hemp. Now out of reach of the DEA, negotiations with the Food & Drug Administration over the supplement’s legality could be complex.

A hand holds a hemp leaf up against the backdrop of a partly cloudy blue sky. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the return of legal hemp in the U.S. could bring massive benefits to the budding hemp industry, to everyday people, and to the planet.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, the return of legal hemp in the U.S. could bring massive benefits to the
budding hemp industry, to everyday people, and to the planet.

“We’re feeling terrific but the battle is not over,” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel to the U.S. Hemp Roundtable, an industry advocacy organization. “We’ve got state laws that we need to deal with, we’ve got the FDA issues looming.”

Legalizing hemp in the U.S. marks a major change for American agriculture itself. We expect to cover numerous aspects of this law in the coming days, but this article offers an overview of the major changes and what we can expect next from legal hemp in the United States.

INDUSTRIAL HEMP REMOVED FROM CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT

Hemp in all its forms — whether used as food, medicine, or textile — represents one of the first crops domesticated by humans. Then, the war on drugs brought about negative associations with psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) that spilled over onto hemp, marijuana’s close cousin. The result was decades of prohibition in the U.S., broken only for a brief period of hemp growing during World War II.

The 2018 Farm Bill completely removes hemp and anything made from hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

In 2014, Pres. Barack Obama signed a previous version of the Farm Bill which partially legalized hemp under state-based research programs. In 2017, 19 states grew a total of 25,713 acres of hemp in the U.S. However, laws vary greatly even among hemp growing states. Most hemp is still imported, while a gray cloud of legal uncertainty hung over the industry due to ongoing policies tying hemp to federal drug prohibition.

Until now, the Drug Enforcement Administration argued that industrial hemp is essentially identical to psychoactive cannabis, and therefore a “Schedule I substance” under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances face the strictest penalties for use and are considered to have no benefit to humanity, despite the numerous benefits of all forms of cannabis.

The 2018 Farm Bill completely removes hemp and anything made from hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.

“They have no right or authorization to ever be involved in this again,” Miller told us.

Advocates hope this will improve numerous policies that hurt the industry. Some vendors, especially those selling CBD oil, face legal threats. Hemp businesses routinely struggle to access banking, advertising, and other services. Ari Sherman, president of Evo Hemp, a leading vendor of U.S.-grown hemp foods, expressed his frustration with the status quo.

“We’re the only product in the grocery store that can’t be advertised,” said Sherman.

Attitudes are already changing. Even before being signed into law, the 2018 Farm Bill inspired the Alabama state attorney general to back off from plans to prosecute CBD stores.

LEGAL HEMP NOW UNDER USDA CONTROL

Regulation of hemp will now fall under the USDA, which will set national policies for the crop.

The Farm Bill does allow states to set more restrictive regulations, including banning hemp growing. It also protects the rights of Native American tribes to grow, or not grow, hemp on their lands. However, neither tribes nor states can interfere with interstate commerce surrounding hemp.

“People have been afraid that if they ship [hemp] from Colorado to Washington, what are they going to do in Idaho?” Miller said. Under the new law, “Idaho will still have to let it come through.”

The sun rises over a huge, densely packed hemp field. The 2018 Farm Bill protects the rights of Native American tribes to grow hemp, and prevents states from interfering with interstate commerce of hemp and hemp products.

The 2018 Farm Bill protects the rights of Native American tribes to grow hemp, and prevents states from interfering with interstate commerce of hemp and hemp products.

The definition of industrial hemp will remain unchanged from the 2014 Farm Bill. Only cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC will qualify as legal industrial hemp. THC, the main cannabinoid in psychoactive cannabis which makes people “feel high,” occurs in all forms of the plant but in very low levels in industrial hemp. Under current regulations, farmers must destroy destroy the entire harvest if their hemp tests at 0.4 percent or higher.

“As a Kentucky hemp farmer and processor, it is very important to me this law has passed; Kentucky farmers, and farmers across the entire U.S. will now have the ability to grow this versatile crop.” said Brian Furnish, Director of Farming & Global Production at Ananda Hemp in Cynthiana, Kentucky, Sen. McConnell’s home state.

Though the Farm Bill is now law, legalizing hemp won’t happen overnight. Until the Department of Agriculture finalizes its hemp policies, the rules of the 2014 Farm Bill will continue to officially apply.

“We hope [the USDA] look to the guidance of well-developed pilot programs, in particular Oregon and also Colorado and Kentucky,” Moran said. “Look to their guidance and [don’t] make it overly restrictive as the goal is to really open up access to farmers throughout the United States.”

LEGAL HEMP INDUSTRY STILL FACES ‘TRAGICALLY UNFAIR’ FELONY BAN

The most controversial part of the hemp legalization amendment to the Farm Bill was a clause which banned people with felony drug convictions from participating in the industry.

The legal hemp amendment originally passed by the Senate banned anyone with a felony drug conviction from participating in the hemp industry. People like Veronica Carpio, who has been a Colorado hemp grower since 2014 but also has a past psychoactive cannabis conviction, could have been forced out of an industry they helped to create.

Ministry of Hemp was one of the first media outlets to report on this hemp felony ban. Carpio told us that attention from reporters, and subsequent pressure from parts of the hemp industry, resulted in an important change to the new law. Moran told us Sen. Ron Wyden was a strong advocate for a compromise. But the felony ban remains in a modified form.

“I think it’s tragically unfair,” Carpio told us. “I’m fairly devastated over it actually.”

Under the compromise, now incorporated into the final law, the felony ban exempts anyone already growing under a 2014 Farm Bill-compliant state hemp program. Additionally, anyone whose conviction took place more than 10 years ago may grow hemp.

“Why should I, and others that were under the 2014 Farm Bill, why are we getting exceptions?”

Carpio is grateful that her business is not likely to face any interruption, but she still condemned what she sees as an unfair restriction on hemp, which makes it unlike any other crop. She’s also concerned that the ban will disproportionately affect black people, and other marginalized groups, who tend to be arrested for drug crimes more often.

“Why should I, and others that were under the 2014 Farm Bill, why are we getting exceptions?” she asked.

“I know I should be happier about [the compromise] but I’m not, it should have been removed completely.”

In addition, she suggested this clause and others in the bill could create unnecessary government surveillance and monitoring of hemp growers.

LEGAL HEMP BUT WHAT ABOUT LEGAL CBD OIL?

The most popular application for hemp in the U.S. is CBD oil. CBD, or cannabidiol, has numerous benefits from easing symptoms of stress to reducing epileptic seizures. U.S. sales of CBD products reached $190 million in 2017. At the same time, the market is currently completely unregulated, making it challenging for consumers to separate quality CBD products from snake oil.

Hemp supporters argued that CBD products were protected by the 2014 Farm Bill and other legal precedents, but the DEA often disagreed. Though 2018 Farm Bill explicitly removes any product made from legal hemp from DEA oversight, the FDA regulates anything intended for human consumption. That includes CBD oil.

Moran noted that under the Farm Bill, “the FDA still has the complete authority that they do under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”

So far, the FDA has limited itself to targeting CBD vendors that make illegal health claims about their products. The FDA classifies everyday CBD products as nutritional supplements and bans vendors from claiming hemp extract treats any health conditions.

WILL THE FOOD & DRUG ADMINISTRATION WEIGH IN ON CBD OIL?

“The next step for the hemp CBD industry is that we need to self regulate CBD products to ensure they are safe, well tested, and properly labeled,” said Joseph Dowling, CEO of CV Sciences, maker of PlusCBD Oil, in a statement sent by email.

Many industry experts believe the FDA will face pressure to develop regulations around CBD products with the passage of the Farm Bill. Another factor is the recent approval of Epidiolex, a prescription epilepsy drug made from CBD derived from psychoactive cannabis. The approval of Epidiolex marks the first time the FDA officially recognized the medical value of cannabis. Still, some worry that it could lead to a crackdown on access to over-the-counter CBD supplements.

This is a complex and developing aspect of the 2018 Farm Bill and hemp legalization that we intend to cover in more depth in the future. Until then, CBD consumers should rest assured that their favorite supplement is likely to remain available. With CBD generating millions in profits and benefitting thousands of consumers, the FDA faces immense financial and popular pressure to keep this supplement available.

“The wind is at our back,” Miller said. “The public loves hemp-derived CBD so it’s only a matter of time.”

LEGAL HEMP IS A ‘WIN’ FOR PLANET EARTH

While CBD helps people feel better, and hemp can generate immense profits for both farmers and hemp companies, the benefits of legal hemp go deeper. Hemp can heal the soil, requires almost no pesticides and only moderate watering compared to other crops. Hemp fabric is a more sustainable alternative to cotton, and the woody core of industrial hemp plants can be made into hempcrete, a sustainable building material with numerous remarkable qualities.

While Miller cautioned that hemp is “no panacea,” he noted that Europe is already making increasing use of hemp plastic.

“It’s biodegradeable and renewable,” he said. “Just imagine if that can be replicated on a mass scale what that could mean for the environment.”

Moran agreed:

“[The environment] is the most important aspect of all of this. … The reason I have been an advocate for the past 10 years and why I have focused my entire education and career on industrial hemp legalization is because this plant can do amazing things for the earth, for the soil.”

Sherman suggested this could be a moment with international significance. Evo Hemp’s attempts to encourage hemp farming in foreign countries often faced resistance from officials afraid of U.S. government retaliation. That could be on the verge of changing.

“All of these countries around the world are going to open up their hemp policies,” he predicted.

 

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2018 Farm Bill Could Fully Legalize Industrial Hemp In USA

An amendment to the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill would fully legalize industrial hemp in the United States. If included in the final version, hemp would be out of reach of the DEA and treated like any other crop by the states and Native American tribes.

Update DECEMBER 20, 2018: The Farm Bill became law this afternoon and hemp is legal in the United States again!

Update DECEMBER 12, 2018: The 2018 Farm Bill just passed the U.S. House of Representatives after passing the Senate, including the landmark amendment that will fully legalize industrial hemp at the federal level! The amendment fully removes hemp and derivatives of it from the control of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and opens up massive possibilities for the hemp industry, American agriculture, and health and science to name a few. There was even a partial compromise on the most troubling part of the law, which restricted people with felony convictions from being part of the industry.

Pres. Trump is expected to sign the omnibus bill into law before the year ends, though the timeline is unclear at this time. We’ll have more updates soon!

Update JULY 11, 2018: The current language of the hemp amendment also bans people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry.

An amendment to the Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill would fully legalize industrial hemp in the United States.

“This is a big day for hemp,” said Brian Furnish, a hemp grower from Kentucky and president of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable.

The amendment legalizing hemp began as a bill proposed by Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate. The “Hemp Farming Act of 2018” fully legalizes industrial hemp and all products made from it including CBD oil. Under the new law, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other government agencies would no longer be able to interfere with hemp.

The 2018 Farm Bill could mark a new beginning for hemp growing in the U.S. if the a legalization amendment makes its way into the final version.

A hemp farmer surveys his crop at sunrise. The 2018 Farm Bill could mark a new beginning for hemp growing in the U.S. if the a legalization amendment makes its way into the final version.

Due to political uncertainty over other parts of the massive Farm Bill, and the lack of hemp related language in the House version of the bill, there are still hurdles ahead before legalization.

2014 vs. 2018: NEW FARM BILL BUILDS ON PARTIAL LEGALIZATION

The United States made industrial hemp illegal for decades until an amendment to the 2014 version of the Farm Bill allowed growing by state-run hemp research programs.

These state-based programs vary, with some allowing only university research and others allowing a limited number of everyday farmers. The U.S. grew about 25,000 acres of hemp under these state programs, mostly in more permissive states like Colorado and Kentucky. However, CBD vendors have faced some legal threats at both the state and federal level. Other government agencies, like the Bureau of Reclamation, have also interfered with growers at times.

HOW THE 2018 FARM BILL WOULD LEGALIZE HEMP

McConnell’s amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill would officially remove hemp from the DEA’s list of controlled substances, ending debate over the legal status of the plant.

All products made from hemp, including CBD oil, would be explicitly legalized as well, so long as they contain less than .3 percent THC (the substance which makes people “feel high” in psychoactive cannabis). State agriculture departments, along with Native American tribes, would be free to regulate hemp just as they do any other crop like corn or carrots.

BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR HEMP BUT CONFLICT OVER 2018 FARM BILL

In a historic moment for hemp legalization, the Senate passed the 2018 Farm Bill with the hemp amendment included. Members of both parties support hemp in an unusual display of bipartisan agreement. However, since the House version of the Farm Bill does not include the same amendment, hemp’s future is still up in the air.

Before it can appear before the president for his signature, the House and Senate must form a “Conference Committee” to iron out differences between the two versions of the 2018 Farm Bill. Conferees, appointed from both parties, will meet to debate the final version. Hemp advocates hope that, with McConnell’s enthusiastic support, conferees are likely to back hemp.

Still, “there’s always political conflict in Washington,” Furnish warned.

The Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill includes a historic amendment to legalize industrial hemp.

A shot of the U.S. Capitol seen at dusk. The Senate version of the 2018 Farm Bill includes a historic amendment to legalize industrial hemp.

A disagreement over Food Stamps is one possible source of conflict. The House version of the bill includes controversial changes that would reduce the number of people eligible for the program. Disagreement over provisions like these could also put hemp legalization at risk.

Though the hemp industry overall enthusiastically supports the hemp amendment, there are a few dissenting voices. Veronica Carpio, of Grow Hemp Colorado, objects to hemp-only legalization bills which allows some growers to profit off the cannabis plant while growers and users of psychoactive cannabis remain in prison.

“No one goes to prison for hemp charges, but people go to prison and lives are still ruined over marijuana,” she told us, echoing comments she made around a previous, failed hemp legalization bill.

HEMP LEGALIZATION IS CLOSER THAN EVER TO REALITY

The 2018 farm bill is an omnibus piece of legislation which ensures continued funding for numerous agricultural and social programs. Pres. Donald Trump is almost certain to sign it when it finally reaches his desk.

While it’s still possible hemp could become legal through other methods, such as a stand-alone bill, Furnish hopes hemp supporters will speak up in favor of the plant.

“Contact your representatives and tell them to support McConnell’s hemp language,” he said.

One easy way to do so is to complete this form on the U.S. Hemp Roundtable website.

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HIA Vs. DEA Decision: What The Dismissal Means For The Hemp Industry

When a federal court dismissed a lawsuit between the Hemp Industries Association and the DEA, misinformation about the ruling quickly spread online. Since we’re hemp advocates, we knew we had to get to the bottom of the HIA vs. DEA decision and what it means for the industry.

The HIA vs. DEA decision, a ruling in a landmark lawsuit by the hemp industry, has caused a lot of confusion about CBD’s legal status.

The Hemp Industries Association sued the Drug Enforcement Administration last year in an effort to overturn a DEA rule declaring CBD oil illegal. When the court dismissed the case on April 30, based on what was essentially a technical matter, misinformation about the ruling quickly spread online. Since we’re hemp advocates and supporters of access to CBD oil, we knew we had to get to the bottom of the HIA vs. DEA decision and what it means for the industry.

“Our hope was that they would withdraw the rule or go back through the traditional rule making progress,” said Colleen Keahey, executive director at the HIA.

Rather than hear their argument, the court ruled that their case was invalid because the HIA hadn’t participated in an official comment period which took place years ago. Keahey pointed out that the comment period was in 2011, while the DEA waited until 2016 to suddenly claim that CBD is illegal.

The HIA vs. DEA decision prompted misleading media stories suggesting CBD was now illegal.

A statue of Lady Justice holding her scales. The HIA vs. DEA decision prompted misleading media stories suggesting CBD was now illegal.

While the hemp industry can chalk the ruling up as a loss, all is not as it seems. In fact, the DEA may have been forced to admit that CBD products derived from hemp are actually legal after all.

CBD AND THE DEA: WHY THE HEMP INDUSTRY LAUNCHED A LAWSUIT

While marijuana, the form of cannabis that makes people feel high, remains illegal at a federal level, most legal experts agree the same isn’t true for industrial hemp.

The 2014 Farm Bill, which Pres. Barack Obama signed in that year, declared industrial hemp legal as long as it’s grown under a state-run hemp program. According to Vote Hemp, 15 states grew hemp last year for a total of over 25,000 acres. One of the most popular products made from this hemp is CBD, or cannabidiol, an extract of hemp which science suggests has numerous healing benefits.

The DEA has tried to claim that all CBD is illegal, even when it’s made from legal hemp. Though CBD remains available, at least online, in almost every part of the U.S., the DEA rule has caused a great deal of legal confusion. States like Wisconsin and Indiana have struggled with the legality of CBD. One Indiana resident narrowly escaped drug possession charges for CBD before a new law passed that declared CBD fully legal in that state.

The HIA were joined in their lawsuit by several other hemp advocates, all of whom hoped that the case could clear up this confusing legal landscape.

HIA VS. DEA DECISION FORCES GOVERNMENT TO UPDATE POLICIES

Another major party to the suit was Hoban Law Group, well-known specialists in cannabis law. In a statement to their clients which was shared with Ministry of Hemp, Hoban Law collectively fired back against the rumors and misconceptions swirling around the HIA vs. DEA decision.

“Contrary to many media reports suggesting otherwise, the Court’s ruling does not find that industrial hemp, or derivatives or extracts of hemp, are illegal,” they wrote. “In fact, this ruling should not be understood to practically impact the hemp industry in an adverse way and does provide some clarity.”

According to the statement, in dismissing the case the court stated that the Farm Bill actually supersedes the Controlled Substances Act. The CSA is the anti-drug law the DEA tried to use to argue that CBD is illegal. Essentially, the court said that when the CSA conflicts the Farm Act, the Farm Act — and legal hemp and CBD — win out.

“This is good news for the hemp industry,” Hoban wrote.

The HIA vs. DEA decision caused confusion, but may actually have forced the government to admit that CBD derived from hemp is legal.

A hemp farmer surveys his crop at sunset. The HIA vs. DEA decision caused confusion, but may actually have forced the government to admit that CBD derived from hemp is legal.

Rod Kight, another well known legal advocate for cannabis, struck a cautious note in his May 2 analysis of the HIA vs. DEA decision.

“The outcome was not entirely awful,” he wrote on his blog Kight on Cannabis.

Kight pointed to a clarification on CBD that the DEA published soon after the court case began. While the DEA’s statement is confusingly written, it states that “CBD is not illegal, per se,” as long as it’s derived from a legal source like hemp. Though the DEA admitted CBD was always legal, it’s clear the question of CBD’s legality is still not settled.

“On the one hand, nothing has changed and life in the wake of this ruling is the same as it was before the ruling,” Kight wrote. “On the other hand, things are more confusing than ever.”

CBD LAWSUIT DECISION HIGHLIGHTS THE NEED FOR LEGAL CHANGE

The lawsuit could be appealed but, according to Keahey, the Hemp Industries Association is keeping their options open.

“As of April 30, we have 45 days to decide and our board of directors and our legal counsel and our co-petitioners are just putting together thoughts and opinions and reviewing potential strategies,” she said. “We’ve got some time so we’re going to take it and make sure we do our due diligence to take the appropriate action.”

Overall, most hemp experts don’t seem to think the results of this lawsuit will have much effect on the industry. CBD supplements continue to sell online and in most states. However, cases like these highlight the need for legal change at the federal level. A Senate bill called the “Hemp Farming Act of 2018” could fully legalize hemp and derivatives like CBD, taking them out of the hands of the DEA once and for all. Originally sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the bill is rapidly gaining bipartisan support.

Regardless of whether they appeal the court case, Keahey said she’s excited for the upcoming Hemp History Week, which the Hemp Industries Association cosponsors with the nonprofit Vote Hemp and others. Taking place from June 4 through 10 in 2018, Hemp History Week is a major annual grassroots campaign that raises awareness about the benefits of this crop and the many ways it can be used.

This year, the campaign is perfectly timed to draw attention to the need for full hemp legalization and encourage voters to lobby their lawmakers.

“We hope we get more response from constituents to Congress than ever before,” Keahey told us.

 

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Why The Hemp Industry Is Suing The DEA Over CBD Oil | HIA vs. DEA

Hemp businesses and consumers could soon be celebrating the end of the DEA’s attempts to prevent Americans from producing or selling cannabidiol (CBD) extracts, depending on the outcome of a new lawsuit. Dozens of members of Congress have expressed their support for legal CBD oil in a brief filed in the case.

Update 5/17/2018: A court dismissed the Hemp Industries Association lawsuit on a technicality. Check out our HIA vs. DEA update for more on what this means for the hemp industry.

Hemp businesses and consumers could soon be celebrating the end of the DEA’s attempts to prevent Americans from producing or selling cannabidiol (CBD) extracts.

On Dec 14, 2016, the DEA published a new rule establishing a new drug code for “marijuana extracts.” The rule states that extracts from the “genus cannabis” plant containing any cannabinoid “will continue to be treated as Schedule I controlled substances.”

This rule poses a significant challenge to hemp producers and consumers in the U.S. who, up to now, have been legally producing and consuming CBD and hemp oil under the Agricultural Act of 2014.

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), along with other petitioners, has challenged this rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In addition, a group of lawmakers have declared their support for CBD, filing a document in the case insisting that Congress already made CBD legal, and that it remains legal, thanks to the Agricultural Act.

While consumers continue to freely access CBD oil, the DEA’s rule has cast a shadow over producers and vendors, and this lawsuit could go a long way towards easing their worries.

A hearing date is set for February 15, 2018 in San Francisco, though the case could last for months.

While consumers haven’t faced any reported legal threats so far, some hemp CBD shops in states with relatively strict controlled substance laws have seen their inventory seized by local law enforcement and their operations shut down.

“The industrial hemp industry has seen exponential growth across the United States since the passage of the Farm Bill in 2014, and this case represents the most significant challenge the U.S. hemp industry has seen to date,” Garrett Graff, an attorney for the petitioners, told Ministry of Hemp.

HIA vs. DEA gavel and scales of justice

A gavel with the scales of justice behind it. The HIA vs. DEA case could have long-lasting repercussions for the hemp industry and CBD consumers.

The outcome of this lawsuit could be crucial not just for the hemp industry, but also for the thousands of people who benefit from taking CBD.

WHY THE HIA VS. DEA LAWSUIT MATTERS TO HEMP PRODUCERS & CONSUMERS

The DEA’s long war on industrial hemp dates back decades, but Congress began in earnest to correct this situation about four years ago. The Agricultural Act of 2014, better known as the 2014 Farm Bill,) created an exemption from the Controlled Substances Act by defining industrial hemp grown in an authorized research program as separate and distinct from marijuana.

Nevertheless, the DEA obstructed farmers from participating in hemp research programs, prompting a lawsuit from the state of Kentucky in 2014. Because of continued DEA obstruction of the Farm Bill, Congress was forced to pass a rider to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill in September of 2016. This rider provided that no funds may be spent by the federal government interfering in legitimate hemp research.

DOJ headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The headquarters of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. The DEA insists the CBD extracts made from hemp are illegal, despite the 2014 Farm Bill which made hemp growing and research legal in the U.S. on a limited basis (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Sebmol, CC-BY-SA license).

Despite these two provisions of law, the DEA continues to assert publicly that CBD derived from hemp is a Schedule 1 controlled substance, sending a chill over potential hemp business investors. The case is important because the DEA’s overbroad treatment of virtually all CBD as a controlled substance has resulted in uncertainty in the blossoming hemp economy.

WHAT THE DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION GETS WRONG ABOUT CBD & HEMP

The federal Controlled Substance Act creates an exemption for the stalks and seeds of the cannabis plant as legal substances because they only contain traces of THC. Congress, in the 2014 Farm Bill, expanded this exemption of stalks and seeds to include all parts of the industrial hemp plant grown in an authorized research program, only requiring that hemp products contain 0.3 percent THC or less. But the DEA has not acknowledged this fact, as it continues to assert that any CBD extract — even one made from legal industrial hemp — is a controlled substance under federal law.

The petitioners made significant progress in the briefing stage of the case by forcing the DEA to admit that not all cannabinoids are controlled substances under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). The DEA now admits that the source of the CBD determines whether it falls under the CSA. If the source of the CBD is an exempt part of the plant (stalks and seeds), according to the DEA, then the CBD falls outside the CSA and is legal. What the petitioners argue is that the Farm Bill created an additional exemption for Farm Bill-produced hemp, which the DEA’s rule effectively wipes out. An agency cannot rewrite a law in this way, and petitioners seek a court order setting aside the rule on this basis (as well as others).

The DEA attempts to argue, without basis, that the exemption provided by the Farm Bill is a limited exemption only applying to hemp that is being grown or cultivated, and when the hemp leaves the field it magically becomes a controlled substance. This contradicts the plain language of the Farm Bill which protects research hemp “whether growing or not.” It also ignores Congress’s clear intent to grow hemp businesses in interstate commerce through marketing research involving hemp grown in research projects.

28 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR CBD IN HIA VS DEA LAWSUIT

HIA vs. DEA lawsuit could ease worries of hemp farmers

A hemp farmer inspects his crop. The HIA vs. DEA lawsuit aims to end the uncertainty around the legal status of CBD extracts made from industrial hemp.

In fact, the 28 Senators and Representatives who crafted the hemp portion of the Farm Bill emphasize this very point in a recent and potentially very significant “amicus” brief filed in the case in support of the petitioners.

“It is truly remarkable that nearly thirty elected Members of Congress have taken the opportunity to prepare an amicus brief in this matter in support of the Petitioners,” Graff said. “Congress has spoken, yet again.”

These members of Congress assert that CBD and any product derived from Farm Bill hemp is legal, so long as it adheres to only one requirement: that the THC level be 0.3 percent or less as provided in the Farm Bill.

Further, the brief states that “Congress legalized … any commercial marketing of industrial hemp extracts and derivatives, so long as the products fell under the THC threshold level.”

A DAY OF RECKONING FOR THE HEMP INDUSTRY

Hemp industry attorneys representing the petitioners in the case are cautiously optimistic, especially after receiving Congressional support.

Graff told us, “Our clients, the HIA, RMH, and Centuria Foods, are truly humbled by this show of support from Congress concerning this critical matter.”

While consumers continue to freely access CBD oil, the DEA’s rule has cast a shadow over producers and vendors, and this lawsuit could go a long way towards easing their worries.

It would appear that February 15 will be a day of reckoning for the DEA in its quest to defy Congressional intent. Regardless of the outcome of this case, hemp farmers and businesses will continue to push for federal legislation fully legalizing commercial hemp production. But a favorable ruling would bring us much closer to that outcome.

 

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Texas Winery Offers Unique Hemp Oil-Infused Wines | Texas Hemp Wine

It’s a product years in the making, but Americans in 37 states can now try hemp-infused wine, the creation of Texas-based TVM Wines. For the wine’s creators, the product is about more than just capitalizing on an increasingly “hip” ingredient.

You can wear hemp fashion, put hemp seeds on your oatmeal, even write on hemp paper, so why not sip some hemp wine?

It’s a product years in the making, but Americans in 37 states can now try hemp-infused wine, the creation of Texas-based TVM Wines.

TVM’s new hemp wines are actually wine cocktails, infused with flavors like “rum and Coke” and “Texas tea,” and graced with playful names like “Forbidden,” “Covert” and “Taboo” that invite drinkers to take part in something secretive and daring. However, for the wine’s creators, the product is about more than just capitalizing on an increasingly “hip” ingredient: they’re believers in the benefits of hemp too.

“We really truly want to help people,” declared Elease Hill, vice president of sales and marketing at TVM Wines.

Each glass of hemp wine contains a full serving of hemp oil, and while Hill stops short of making any health claims about drinking the wine, there’s ample scientific evidence that hemp oil itself can provide real benefits to consumers. If Hill had her way, the wines would also include CBD oil, an extract of hemp that can offer relief to symptoms of numerous conditions from arthritis to chronic pain. However, her efforts to develop CBD-infused wine, which has already become a best-selling product in Europe were thwarted by government regulations and the ongoing war on drugs, and it took months of struggle and negotiation to even bring her hemp wines to market.

two bottles of TVM hemp wine posed outdoors

Two bottles of TVM Hemp Wines, in “Fantasy” and “Covert” flavors, are artfully posed outdoors. TVM’s Elease Hill spent months negotiating with the government in order to successfully bring hemp wine to market.

“Until the government gets off their high horse and leaves hemp alone we can’t do anything with CBD,” Hill said, with obvious frustration in her voice, when we spoke to her by phone last month.

DEA, TTB, AND THE STRUGGLE TO BRING HEMP WINE TO MARKET

Friends of the family-owned winery first suggested the idea of a hemp wine “about two years ago,” according to Hill, but her father, TVM’s chairman Ron Mittelstedt, was initially resistant due to hemp’s uncertain legal nature and lingering stigma.

The idea lingered, and soon after Hill’s sister Beth began to research hemp’s benefits. Hill herself also discovered that CBD could treat her Attention Deficit Disorder more effectively than pharmaceutical drugs. Armed with both first-hand experience and knowledge of Spain’s “Cannavine,” they were able to change their father’s opinion and began the long process of developing a new product — only to discover that there were seemingly miles of red tape in their way.

Hemp was once a staple American cash crop, and in regular use for its medicinal benefits, until it was made illegal alongside its close cousin, marijuana, in the early 20th-century. The 2014 Farm Bill legalized hemp growing in the U.S. again for “research purposes” (including market research), allowing each state to set rules around the growth of low-THC industrial hemp. Legal experts believe the farm bill, along with other legislation and legal precedents, mean that hemp-based products are fully legal in the United States.

However, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to insist that CBD is fully illegal, and other government agencies have followed their lead.

Obama signs 2014 Farm Bill

Pres. Barack Obama signs the 2014 Farm Bill, which relegalized hemp growing in the U.S. Despite this and other legal precedents, government agencies continue to resist the sale of legal hemp products like CBD-infused hemp wine.

“When the DEA came out and said CBD is a Schedule I drug, the TTB, the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Board, they were not going to approve any alcohol products that contain CBD unless it was in trace amounts,” Hill explained.

Without TTB approval, TVM’s products wouldn’t be assigned a “COLA number,” a crucial designation required for national distribution of alcoholic products. She soon discovered that the agency had an absurd definition of what constitutes a trace amount. At one point, the TTB rejected an earlier formula because they claimed it contained 700 parts per million of CBD, a miniscule measurement far below what could cause any effect.

Even after after agreeing to use hemp oil, rather than CBD oil, Hill still had to push for final approval. One additional challenging factor? Hemp-infused products are rare: most similar products are merely flavored with it rather than containing substantial amounts of actual hemp. One exception, which helped Hill make her case to the TTB, is Colorado High Vodka, which is actually distilled from hemp plants.

After almost two years of work, the TTB agreed to grant TVM Hemp Wines a cola number late last year. “We finally got approval actually one day before my birthday on the formulas, which is December 1st.”

The agency approved the labels later that month, and the first hemp wines went on sale in Texas stores in January.

REDUCING THE STIGMA AROUND CANNABIS, ONE GLASS OF HEMP WINE AT A TIME

The names of the hemp wines, from “Forbidden” to “Fantasy,” hint at the way cannabis has faced misunderstandings, mistrust, and persecution under the war on drugs. Hill’s struggle to receive government approval for the products, shows that the stigma around this plant is still alive even as legal barriers theoretically fall away. The early response to her wines, on the other hand, is a sign that everyday people are excited about hemp, rather than afraid of it.

sock monkey with TVM hemp wine

A red sock monkey (don’t worry, he’s over 21!) enjoys the sweet taste of TVM’s “Forbidden” hemp wine cocktail. Consumers’ excitement over hemp wine shows the stigma around cannabis is disappearing.

“It wasn’t even on the shelves for 20 minutes and someone bought two bottles,” Hill said.

TVM’s hemp wines are already for sale — and selling fast — in several stores in Texas, with more coming soon. For the rest of us, curious hemp enthusiasts in 37 states can order the products from TVM’s page on Vinoshipper.com.

Hill isn’t done making hemp products, but she’s hoping Congress will clear up the legal confusion around hemp first. Efforts like the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which would have fully legalized hemp and hemp products from coast to coast, have stalled in Congress so far, but advocates are hopeful that support for total legalization is growing rapidly.

“I need these bills to pass through so we can create a traditional, dry red wine with the CBD infused.”

We can’t wait to try it!

 

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