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The Legality of CBD: The Hemp Industry Vs. The DEA

Cannabidiol gained some unwanted attention recently, all of it stemming from a 2016 DEA pronouncement listing CBD as an illegal drug. With the ruling, state and local law enforcement officials began a targeted disinformation campaign targeted at disrupting the industry. In Tennessee, 23 shops were recently raided and padlocked, with store owners arrested for selling “illegal or synthetic drugs” to minors. The Attorney General of Kansas announced that cannabidiol is illegal throughout the state. Even Texas, which passed a Compassionate Use Act, is telling business owners not to stock their shelves with CBD.

Meanwhile, one group of industry advocates is taking the fight over CBD to court in a high stakes legal battle that could have long-lasting implications for the extract. The Hemp Industries Association, along with a number of industry insiders brought suit against the DEA in the 9th District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, challenging the decision to label CBD on the same level as marijuana. Whatever the outcome, many agree that the impact may be as significant, if not more significant than those of marijuana legalization itself.

Marijuana Business Daily spoke with experts and those familiar with CBD and came up with a list of the most important questions to look out for as the case moves forward. Perhaps the most critical detail in the case moving forward is how the judges interpret the 2014 Farm Bill, an act of Congress which authorized industrial hemp production. Over two dozen members of Congress wrote to the judges to declare that they had intended for CBD to be legalized when they wrote the bill.

Conversely, the Justice Department, representing the DEA, will most likely argue that a select group of representatives does not speak for the entire legislative body. The defendants in the case believe that the DEA should follow existing drug law. As Marijuana Business Daily the whole case may hinge on who the judges believe more.

Of course, technical arguments will come into play as well. The DEA will argue that CBD can be produced from flowering parts of the Cannabis sativa plant. Simply put, they argue that CBD is marijuana. Conversely, the Hemp Industry contends that CBD can be extracted with less than .03 percent THC, making it a legal product. As Marijuana Business Daily reports, the Hemp Industry wants the DEA’s rules thrown out because, “it fails to distinguish industrial hemp from other forms of cannabis,” as per Hemp Industry lawyer Patrick Goggin.

The article goes on to say that most experts agree that the industry will survive the case. However, insiders should watch the case very carefully as the question of whether or not the CBD industry will continue to thrive hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, the case likely will not be decided for months, and the industry continues to gain steam.

“It’s leading to confusion,” Goggin said to Marijuana Business Daily. “It’s stigmatizing folks who are engaged in fully legal activities, and we need the courts to speak to this.”