Cannabis advocates across the US have been pressuring the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify marijuana and acknowledge the plant’s medicinal benefits, and the agency has ultimately responded by backtracking on the issue. The DEA recently created a new drug code for marijuana derivatives like CBD oil, leaving many medicinal users and extract producers in fear of stricter regulations.
This past Friday, the hemp industry decided to combat this new rule by filing a judicial review against the DEA, alleging that the agency overstepped their bounds by enforcing the new coding system. The DEA has claimed that the new rule will help keep track of materials, but some believe that the vague language of the law could lead to marijuana and hemp-based products being categorized as illegal.
The judicial review was submitted by the Denver-based Hoban Law Group on behalf of the Hemp Industries Association, Centuria Natural Foods, and RMH Holdings LLC. Hoban’s petition questions the consistency of the new rule, comparing it to overarching laws like the US Controlled Substances Act and Agricultural Act of 2014, making the case that it ultimately amounts to a scheduling action of some sort. Hoban filed the judicial review in the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit of San Francisco on Friday, the very same day the DEA's new coding system went into effect.
"The sky is not falling, but this is not some benign coding function either,” Hoban said. “At the end of the day, the DEA needs to sit down, read the Controlled Substances Act, read the farm bill and understand that what they're saying has practical implications on commerce and on patients around this country. That's not weight they should throw around so lightly."
In response to the lawsuit, DEA spokesman Russ Baer maintained that CBD oil and other cannabis-based extracts “have been and will continue to be Schedule I controlled substances,” and went on to say that there are only a few exceptions that make industrial hemp-based products legal. Additionally, he claimed that the new coding system would not change the DEA’s enforcement priorities.
Regardless of the DEA’s intentions, the new coding has left cannabis extract and hemp producers unsure about the future of the market. The concern that the Hoban Law Group and others have expressed is completely justified, as the health of patients and the entire cannabis industry could potentially hang in the balance.