In late May, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a directive to all employees that reflected the agency’s policy on enforcement “with respect to products that are excluded from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).” That directive has been widely interpreted as further relaxing the DEA’s ban on products made from hemp, but does it go farther?
By itself, probably not. But hemp growers got more help from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who introduced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 in April. The act would establish hemp as an agricultural commodity, keep the federal government’s hands off state laws that allow hemp farming, add hemp to the list of federally insurable crops and increase research into the plant’s uses.
The Hemp Farming Act, co-sponsored by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden (D) and Jeff Merkel (D) includes the following definition of hemp:
The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
The difference between the concentrations of THC — the psychoactive cannabinoid ingredient of the cannabis plant — in hemp and marijuana is significant. Medical marijuana typically contains 5% to 20% THC, while the most highly concentrated strains of recreational marijuana contain 25% to 30% THC.
The DEA directive implies that the agency is not interested in hemp:
The mere presence of cannabinoids is not itself dispositive as to whether a substance is within the scope of the CSA; the dispositive question is whether the substance falls within the CSA definition of marijuana.
Last week, the U.S. Attorney in California indicated that the U.S. Department of Justice is going to team up with the state to go after illegal (by state law) growers. The clear implication is that legal growers will be left alone.
How does Attorney General Jeff Sessions, implacable foe of marijuana, feel about all this? He’s not saying yet, but he has to be wondering what’s gone wrong.
And here’s a link to help you brush up on your hemp history.