Fighting the CBD ban: hemp companies sue the DEA

The DEA's unconstitutional change to the drug code gets challenged in federal court

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war on drugs

The cannabis industry is striking back against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after the federal agency issued clarifying language last month that codifies cannabidiol (CBD) as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Enforcing the change would affect businesses that sell any CBD-based product, including e-liquid.

A cannabis trade group, the Hemp Industries Association, along with two hemp-related companies, filed suit in federal court in California last week, asking the court to overturn the DEA’s changes to the drug code, according to Leafly. RMH Holdings and Centuria Natural Foods are the other plaintiffs.

CBD is a nickname for cannabidiol, one of several active chemical compounds called cannabinoids that are found in plants of the genus Cannabis. Unlike its famous cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is non-psychoactive. It doesn’t induce sensations of euphoria. CBD has shown great promise as a treatment for many disorders, including anxiety, epilepsy and cancer.

“The DEA cannot create a statute. That can only be done by Congress.”

The lawsuit was filed by Denver attorney Robert Hoban of the Hoban Law Group, a firm that specializes in cannabis law. Hoban has been outspoken about the DEA rule change, calling it an unconstitutional attempt by an enforcement agency to legislate. “The DEA cannot create a statute,” Hoban told Leafly. “That can only be done by Congress.”

The suit charges that the DEA rule is arbitrary, capricious, and unconstitutional. “They want to call all cannabinoids illegal. But they don’t have the authority to do that,” Hoban told Leafly.

The lawsuit says that the new rule “creates a new drug code without the DEA having followed the procedures or made the findings required” by the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA rule claims that any product extracted from a cannabis plant is classified as a marijuana extract. But the Controlled Substances Act only includes THC separately as a Schedule 1 substance.

The DEA rule comes soon after the United Kingdom reclassified CBD as a medicine, largely eliminating the consumer CBD market there.

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Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.
  • Richard Cheese

    The DEA needs to be dismantled.