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DEA accused of violating federal law on CBD products

Hemp-based CBD products are now legal, thanks to the Farm Bill, but that hasn’t stopped the DEA’s attack on them, as they continue to violate federal law.

The DEA is getting more specific, no longer just taking a stance on the herb, but the compounds inside of it. While the 2014 Farm Bill permitted CBD products that had been derived from industrial hemp plants with a maximum of 0.3 percent THC, the DEA is still flouting the Obama era legislation, and throwing their federal weight around with patients and CBD companies.

Hemp-derived CBD versus cannabis-derived CBD

CBD legislation is inherently confusing, and even the DEA doesn’t seem completely clear on what it is and isn’t allowed to do. However, precedent suggests they are more concerned about others breaking the law than they are doing so themselves.

The Farm Bill made a distinct separation between industrial hemp and typical marijuana. It gave states the right to self-regulate industrial hemp products, and decide how they wish to proceed in growing, cultivating and marketing them.

More than 30 states have proceeded to make the same distinction between marijuana and industrial hemp and allow for cultivation of the crop. Hemp-derived products are permitted in all 50 states and D.C.

What is the DEA doing?

The DEA shed light on their position on CBD and hemp-based products in a letter sent to The Cannabist. The federal agency came down particularly hard on CW Hemp, a company named after the famous Charlotte’s Web strain, a high-CBD type of cannabis that has been used to treat rare and severe epileptic conditions.

CW Hemp has firmly rebutted the DEA’s statement, with Joel Stanley, the company’s CEO, giving a comprehensive breakdown of the letter.

The argument against the DEA is that the Appropriations Act of 2017 was meant to stop federal funds from being used to go after industrial hemp businesses conforming with federal and state law. In attacking CW Hemp, the DEA is violating that 2017 act.

Section 773 of the Appropriations Act of 2017 confirms that federal funds cannot be used to stop industrial hemp from being transported, processed, sold and used, providing the plant has been grown and cultivated in line with the Agricultural Act of 2014, Sec. 7606.

As a federal agency, the DEA was stepping outside of its jurisdiction in making the statement about industrial hemp and attacking companies like CW Hemp. Stanley argues that his company is being “federally compliant,” and that using federal funds to restrict industrial hemp is illegal.

The conclusion

It’s up to Congress to make the laws and for agencies like the DEA to enforce them – not the other way around. The DEA may want to continue its war on cannabis, and prevent people from using helpful, non-psychoactive, non-addictive, hemp-based products, but when they do so they are breaking the law. Courts would throw out any attempt by state or federal agencies who try to stop businesses from selling hemp products and consumers from purchasing them.

This protection offered by the Farm Bill has been greeted with relief by CBD patients and companies. It’s up for businesses to ensure that their products are FDA compliant, and there remain strict rules about how products can be marketed.

It’s not breaking the law to suggest that CBD can help with certain ailments, providing those claims aren’t being made on the actual products being sold. Hemp-based CBD products are usually styled as food supplements.

Why is there so much attention on CBD?

Many are rightfully questioning why the DEA seems so dead-set on prohibiting cannabis and CBD use when there’s a national opioid epidemic. Indeed, the prevalence of addictive pharmaceutical medication presents more of a public health concern than CBD ever will. We know that CBD products are neither dangerous nor addictive, but the age-old cannabis stigma makes such products easy targets for the DEA.

It’s simply much easier for the DEA to go after small businesses selling hemp, than the gangs selling hard drugs like heroine as part of organized crime networks. But consumers using hemp-based CBD products shouldn’t be too worried – the law is on hemp’s side and if it takes a court case to prove it, then so be it.

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