Hemp Attorneys Want Dialog with DEA over CBD

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Hemp Attorneys Want Dialog with DEA over CBD

Hemp lawyers who moved to block the implementation of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rule related to marijuana extracts said they are willing to enter talks with the federal agency.

“We would love to entertain discussions with the DEA," said Patrick Goggin, a hemp attorney in San Francisco who worked on the Jan. 13 petition for review before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “We anticipate filing an administrative petition with them, but we’re not guaranteed any … particular time frame for a decision on that or even a hearing. But we would love to sit down and chat with them—but that’s going to require the DEA to reach across and meet us halfway in those discussions."

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), and two other plaintiffs, sought relief in the Ninth Circuit in response to a DEA rule that threatens to destabilize the market for hemp products, especially cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-psychoactive substance found in cannabis plants. CBD is frequently sold in “dietary supplements" despite an adverse opinion by FDA, and it has been the subject of ongoing research around the globe to treat a variety of medical conditions from cancer to epilepsy.

In December 2016, DEA announced a final rule to create a new Administration Controlled Substances Code Number for marijuana extract—clarifying in response to a comment submitted to the agency that CBD would fall within the new drug code. Marijuana extracts would continue to be treated as Schedule I controlled substances, DEA asserted.

The ruling, hemp lawyers said, flouted the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014, otherwise known as the Farm Bill.

“The DEA’s attempt to regulate hemp-derived products containing cannabinoids lawfully sourced under the CSA, and farmed and produced under the Farm Bill in states like Kentucky and Colorado, is not only outside the scope of their power, it’s an attempt to rob us of hemp’s economic opportunity," said Colleen Keahey, executive director of HIA, in a statement.

DEA explained the new drug code would enable the agency to separately track quantities of marijuana extract, assisting in compliance with relevant treaty provisions. But the agency’s move has produced more far-reaching consequences, according to the hemp industry.

“The industry was in the midst of becoming more … mainstream and within the normal channels of commerce … but because of this rule, there’s been a retraction by those channels," Goggin said. “And it’s created a lot of concern, fear and confusion within the marketplace."

Bob Hoban, a Colorado-based lawyer who also worked on the petition on behalf of the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit’s objective is not to simply prove DEA is mistaken.

“This is not about telling the DEA they’re wrong and then moving on," he said in an interview at his law office in downtown Denver the same day the petition was filed. “The idea is there is a dialogue that needs to happen here. There’s … a negotiation.

“Objective number 2 is [to] invalidate or withdraw this rule because at the end of the day, the rule is written incorrectly," he said.

Even before DEA published its rule, the cannabis lawyer said he was aware DEA didn’t distinguish between marijuana and hemp.