DEA’s Proposed Rules to Comply with Hemp Legalization

Written by Lydia Kariuki

After dragging its feet for a while the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has finally proposed new rules to comply with the 2018 Farm Bill. These rules will make it possible for hemp to be marketed legally throughout the US. While the passing of the said Farm Bill legalized hemp at a federal level, implementation of this law has been difficult; given the close association between hemp and cannabis which remains federally illegal.

In the US, hemp is defined as varieties of cannabis sativa that have less than 0.3% of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  THC is the compound that gives cannabis its intoxicating properties. Because hemp cultivars contain negligible amounts of THC, they are non- intoxicating.

With these new rules, hemp-derived products will no longer be scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. This will make it possible to import and export hemp and its derivatives without conflicting with the law.

The proposed changes will also pave way for the emergence of a new class of FDA-approved CBD medications. This comes after the FDA approved the first cannabinoid-based drug, epidiolex, for the treatment of intractable childhood seizures in 2018. This drug is derived from synthetic CBD and is legal for use throughout the US.

For a hemp derivative to be considered legal in the US it must meet the threshold of having less than 0.3% THC, otherwise it is considered cannabis which is illegal under federal law.

The proposed changes were issued by the DEA three weeks ago and the document is open for comments from the public effective August 21st to October 20th 2020.

However, the DEA is merely complying with the new federal laws on hemp and its derivatives and “has no discretion” over it.

A year ago, the DEA announced measures geared towards improving access to medical cannabis research. The federal agency “anticipates that registering additional qualified marijuana growers will increase the variety of marijuana available for these purposes.”

On the other hand, the DEA has been on the receiving end of lawsuits and petitions from different players in the cannabis industry. For a long time it appeared as if the DEA was very reluctant to effect pro-cannabis regulations.

The proposed hemp and CBD changes may just be a drop in the ocean, but all the same this appears to be a step in the right direction.

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Lydia Kariuki

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