Hemp Industry Challenges DEA “Marijuana Extract” Rule

marijuana research

The hemp industry and the DEA are headed to court to battle over a controversial new rule regarding marijuana extracts.

On January 13, the Hoban Law Group of Denver, which represents the Hemp Industries Association, Centuria Natural Foods, and RMH Holdings LLC, filed a judicial review action against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, alleging that the agency overstepped its bounds when it established coding for marijuana derivatives like cannabidiol oil (CBD). [1]

According to the Hoban Law Group, the action threatens the cannabis and hemp industry, along with a wide variety of hemp-based products currently on the market.

Attorney Bob Hoban said:

“We’re talking about jobs and the economy and agricultural (revival).” [2]

Last month, marijuana supporters were infuriated when the DEA filed a final rule notice establishing a Controlled Substances Code Number for “marijuana extract,” while keeping marijuana, hemp, and their derivatives in the Schedule I category. Many marijuana advocates see the move as an attempt by the DEA to stretch the definition of marijuana to cover products that are imported or produced domestically with low amounts of THC in full compliance with the law. [3]

Read: What the DEA’s Failure to Reschedule Marijuana Means for Research

The DEA says the rule will make it easier for researchers to study CBD. DEA spokesman Russ Baer said in December:

“From a practical standpoint, we are giving priority, actually, to those researchers who are conducting research with marijuana extracts, [which] the internal code will allow us to track and prioritize.

We recognize there have been some studies that have been promising … and we want to be able to support that ongoing scientific research, particularly as it relates to marijuana extracts.”

The rule was set to take effect the same day Hoban filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. [2]

Hoban’s petition seeks a judicial review of the final rule on the basis that the action was inconsistent with the law – including the U.S. Controlled Substances Act and the Agricultural Act of 2014, or the Farm Bill – and is the equivalent to a scheduling action.

Hoban said a scheduling action would require congressional approval.

The lawsuit states:

“Additionally, the final rule creates this new drug code, indicative of being a controlled substance, for substances which are in fact not controlled pursuant to the (Controlled Substances Act). Specifically, the final rule dictates that the mere presence of ‘cannabinoids,’ which are not controlled substances, is the determinative factor of whether a compound is a ‘marijuana extract.’

Further, the final rule overbroadly defines ‘marijuana extract,’ without reflecting that certain portions and varieties of the genus Cannabis sativa L. are congressionally exempted from the CSA and/or are exempted from being treated as controlled substances altogether pursuant to the relevant laws, as enacted by Congress.”

Hoban’s firm also plans to file an administrative petition next week with the DEA, formally requesting the administration to rescind the definition.

He said:

“The DEA cannot create a statute. That can only be done by Congress.” [4]


[1] The Denver Post

[2] The Cannabist

[3] U.S. News & World Report

[4] Leafly