Hemp Industries Association Sues DEA Over Illegal Attempt to Regulate Hemp Foods as Schedule I Drugs

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Agency Ignores Prior Court Ruling and Clear Congressional Intent in the 2014 Farm Bill; Leading Hemp Trade Group Takes Action to Protect American Hemp Farmers, Businesses from Unlawful DEA Registration Requirements

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), the leading non-profit trade association consisting of hundreds of hemp businesses, has filed a motion to hold the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in contempt of court for violating an unchallenged, long-standing order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco, prohibiting the agency from regulating hemp food products as Schedule I controlled substances. Specifically, the HIA asserts that the DEA continues to operate with blatant disregard for the 2004 ruling made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which permanently enjoined the DEA from regulating hemp fiber, stalk, sterilized seed and oil, which are specifically exempted from the definition of ‘marijuana’ in the federal Controlled Substances Act.

To read the motion, please visit:

“We will not stand idly by while the DEA flouts the will of Congress, violates the Ninth Circuit order, and harasses honest hemp producers trying to make a living with this in-demand crop,” said Colleen Keahey, Executive Director of the Hemp Industries Association. “Hemp is a healthy superfood with vital nutrients such as Omegas 3 and 6, protein, fiber and all 10 essential amino acids that are ideal for today’s family. The DEA must stop treating hemp, hempseed and hempseed oil, which is a nutritious ingredient, as something illicit. We have to address the challenges that thwart the domestic industry’s progress and especially those that mislead state Departments of Agriculture and limit entry of legal hemp products into the marketplace.”

Historically, the DEA has made persistent efforts to regulate hemp products. In 2001, DEA issued an Interpretive Rule attempting to ban all hemp seed and hempseed oil food products that contained even minuscule, insignificant amounts of residual THC. The HIA immediately filed suit to stop the enforcement of this rule, which resulted in what became known as the “Hemp Food Rules Challenge.” Ultimately, the subsequent ruling made by the Ninth Circuit issued serendipitously on February 6, 2004, found that the DEA had not followed necessary scheduling procedures to add non-psychoactive hemp to the list of Schedule I controlled substances; and additionally, that Congress clearly did not intend that hemp be prohibited by the Controlled Substance Act when it adopted language from the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act to define the drug ‘marijuana.’ To read the full 2004 court opinion, please visit:

In December of 2016, the DEA in conjunction with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) indicated to Healthy Oilseeds, LLC that shipment of the company’s hemp products made from hemp grown under the state’s hemp pilot program and Congress’ Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), would require a permit from the DEA, as the hemp protein powder and hempseed oil food items were subject to DEA regulation. Specifically, Healthy Oilseeds received communication from the NDDA stating that export of its hemp products to other states was prohibited, “because industrial hemp is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Federal Controlled Substances Act.” To view this correspondence between NDDA and Healthy Oilseeds LLC, please visit:

DEA’s actions violate the clear Congressional intent of not only of the Farm Bill, which defines industrial hemp as distinct from ‘marijuana’ and legalizes its cultivation and processing under licensing programs in place in 31 states; but also further violate the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, which specifically prohibited federal authorities from using funds to obstruct the “transportation, processing, sale, or use of industrial hemp…within or outside the State in which the industrial hemp is grown or cultivated.” Hence, the DEA may not require lawfully licensed hemp farmers or manufacturers in the U.S. to register for a permit to engage in interstate commerce of industrial hemp products. Indeed, by taking this action, the DEA is violating federal law, misusing taxpayer dollars, and thumbing its nose at Congress.

“Here in Kentucky, our Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles, has built a successful pilot program that works closely with local law enforcement and is creating desperately needed economic opportunity for hundreds of farmers,” stated Bill Hilliard, CEO of Atalo Holdings, Inc. “As states have wisely taken the initiative in this growing industry, the DEA doesn’t need to be interfering on our farms.”

Joe Sandler, HIA’s lead counsel, further stated: “Thirteen years ago DEA was told in no uncertain terms by the U.S. Court of Appeals that Congress had made its intent clear: DEA has no power to regulate hemp seed and oil, and the hemp food and beverage products made from them. It is disappointing that the industry has to revisit the issue, and take this step to compel DEA to obey the law.”

On January 13, 2017, the Hemp Industries Association, among other petitioners, filed a Petition for Review with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, to challenge the DEA’s recent effort to append Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to include lawful hemp-derived non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as cannabinol, which the DEA has arbitrarily termed “Marijuana Extract.” In addition to this suit, and today’s actions taken to affirm the legality of hemp food products, the HIA does intend, in due course, to challenge the DEA’s repeated refusal to abide by other Congressional directives on industrial hemp. 

Author: Hemp Industries Association (Colleen Keahey)
Date: 06 Feb 2017 1:25 PM

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