DEA’s Hemp And CBD Rules Raise Concerns About Potential Crackdown, Industry Insiders Say

“IFR will severely disrupt, and potentially destroy, the hemp industry.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently released proposed rules for hemp and CBD—but while the agency claimed the regulations would simply put its procedures into compliance with federal law, some industry players suspect that they’re really setting the stage to crack down on the newly legal market.

Some background is necessary: the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp and its derivatives, shifting control of the substances from DEA to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA last year unveiled its rules for the crop, and those are still being finalized. DEA’s new interim final rule (IFR) is the latest development, with the agency explaining how it plans to redefine marijuana to exclude hemp, among other statutory changes.

DEA emphasized throughout its proposal that the proposed regulations are only meant to align their policies with the Farm Bill. That’s now how hemp attorney Rod Kight sees it, however, and his theory about DEA’s alleged ulterior motive behind certain language in the IFR is gaining traction within the cannabis community.

In a pair of blog posts last week, Kight asserted that “the IFR threatens to destroy the hemp/CBD industry,” and he urges stakeholders to submit public comment on the rule ahead of the October 20 deadline. “It is not an overstatement to assert that adoption and enforcement of the IFR will severely disrupt, and potentially destroy, the hemp industry.”

There are two main concerns, he said. The first is related to hemp extracts. DEA said that cannabis containing no more than 0.3 percent THC on a dry weight basis meets the definition for hemp and is no longer controlled. However, that language in the IFR has created uncertainty when it comes to producing hemp extracts. The process of extraction involves isolating the cannabinoids, and it inadvertently causes THC levels to spike.

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