When Congress legalized agricultural hemp with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, it seemed like the hemp industry would finally be out of the woods from a regulatory standpoint. So, it defies logic that the FDA is creating obstacles for hemp CBD producers and that every-day people are still being arrested for possession of hemp biomass and extracts.
Just last week, a 67-year-old great grandmother was arrested at the happiest place on earth when a Disney World employee discovered a bottle of CBD in her purse after a routine inspection at the park entrance. You may recall the truck driver who was arrested in Idaho with a load of freshly harvested hemp on its way from Oregon to a processing plant in Colorado just weeks after the hemp measure was signed into law.
Incidents like that leave most of us scratching our heads, considering that hemp is now legal at the federal level and hemp-derived CBD is a harmless molecule that is naturally produced in our own bodies when we’re young.
Let’s face it, legal hemp seems to be an oxymoron. Minutes after the hemp measure was signed into law, the FDA blindsided the elated industry with its stern warning that only one CBD product has ever been approved for sale in the U.S. and that all other hemp CBD products would remain illegal to sell until they can be approved by the FDA. The only exceptions would apply to the manufacturing and sale of CBD limited to states that had included CBD provisions in their state marijuana policy measures.
The public’s desire for organic products continues to grow. This is equally true for cannabis and hemp-derived products, especially where they are being used for medicinal purposes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued regulations setting out standards setting out specific requirements that must be met for an agricultural product to be labeled “organic”. In order to be able to include the USDA’s organic certified seal on a product’s packaging, a USDA-accredited certifying agency must verify that the product meets USDA’s regulations. This USDA certification provides many benefits, including, for example, premium prices for products. So why haven’t we seen many certifications for hemp products?
Back in 2016, the USDA, in conjunction with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, issued a Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp concerning the applicability of Federal law to industrial hemp programs after the 2014 Farm Bill, but the ability to gain organic certification for hemp products was unclear. The USDA also issued Instruction: Organic Certification of Industrial Hemp Production (updated in September 2018), which stated that industrial hemp produced in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill could be certified if it met all of the requirements of USDA’s organic regulations. The problem was that under the 2014 Farm Bill only certain parts of the hemp plant (e.g., the stalk and non-viable seeds) were permitted to seek organic certification. And, actually, some hemp seed products have received USDA organic certification.
USDA has issued its first guidance since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Because the Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, the importation of hemp seeds will now be regulated by USDA as an agricultural product, not DEA. USDA stated that by removing hemp from the CSA, the Act “removed hemp and hemp seeds from DEA authority for products containing THC levels not greater than 0.3 percent. Therefore, DEA no longer has authority to require hemp seed permits for import purposes.” Importation of hemp seeds from international sources will now be permitted if accompanied by the appropriate phytosanitary certification and will be subject to inspection by Customs and Border Patrol.
The reference to DEA authority is significant and confirms that DEA no longer has jurisdiction over hemp or products derived from hemp such as CBD oil. DEA needs to update its own guidance documents in light of the 2018 Farm Bill. USDA is working on regulations to implement the state cultivation program provisions of the Farm Bill. They are expected to be in place in time for the 2020 growing season.
As with CVS, Walgreen’s decision to sell hemp-derived in CBD in select states, as opposed to rolling those products out nationally, is likely the result of the still developing federal regulatory framework for hemp, which includes forthcoming regulations and guidance from USDA and FDA, and differences in the laws pertaining to hemp and hemp-derived CBD products from state-to-state.
Notwithstanding the challenging regulatory environment, the mass marketing of hemp-derived CBD, now that hemp is no longer a federal controlled substance, provides a lucrative opportunity for the hemp-derived CBD supply chain – cultivators, processors, and retailers, including the major pharmacy chains. However, the “select state” approach Walgreens and CVS have taken demonstrates that careful is analysis of the federal and state laws and regulations at play is necessary before entering the hemp-derived CBD market.
A recent decision by a Federal Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Idaho upheld the seizure of an industrial hemp shipment in January after the enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill.
On January 24, 2019, Big Sky, a Colorado-based company, shipped industrial hemp from Oregon thorough Idaho on its way to Colorado. The hemp was seized in Idaho and the driver arrested for illegal transportation of marijuana. The crime carries a 5 year mandatory sentence. Big Sky sued for a temporary restraining order to release the hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill. The Court found that because no plan from the State of Oregon had been approved by the Department of Agriculture, the seized hemp was not produced in accordance the 2018 Farm Bill. The Court held that at this point time, without USDA approval of a state hemp plan, the Interstate Commerce Clause provisions of the Farm Bill do not apply. A Temporary Restraining Order was denied on 2/2 and the Preliminary Injunction was denied on 2/20. Big Sky Scientific LLC v. Idaho State Police et al., No. 1:19-cv-00040-REB (D. Idaho, February 2, 2019). The case is on expedited appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Opening brief is due 3/20.
This decision is contrary to the intent, if not the letter, of the Farm Bill. It creates confusion about the what is permissible now, prior to USDA regs and approval of state plans.
Update: The Senate passed this bill on December 11, 2018; the House of Representatives passed it on December 12, 2018. It was signed into law on December 20, 2018.
Duane Morris will be following further developments and issuing updates.
The 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the Controlled Substances Act;
The 2018 Farm Bill confers on the Department of Agriculture (“DOA”) authority over hemp, including CBD derived from hemp;
States desiring to have primary regulatory authority over hemp must submit a plan to DOA pursuant to which the state will establish hemp regulations to provide for the growth and use of hemp, including CBD derived from hemp;
No laws will be erected to prohibit the interstate transportation of hemp, or CBD derived from hemp;
The Food and Drug Administration may intensify its involvement with CBD as more products for human consumption hit the market;
Banking and insurance for hemp derived CBD products should become increasingly available as those products are no longer “unlawful”; and
CBD derived from unlawful marijuana is still unlawful.
Enter the 2018 Farm Bill, known as the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” set forth in final form in a Conference Report yesterday, and which will be voted on as early as this week and could be signed into law next week. The 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as follows: The term ‘hemp’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis. It goes on to explicitly remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, as follows:
SEC. 12619. CONFORMING CHANGES TO CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT. (a) IN GENERAL.—Section 102(16) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802(16)) is amended— (1) by striking ‘‘(16) The’’ and inserting ‘‘(16)(A) Subject to subparagraph (B), the’’; and (2) by striking ‘‘Such term does not include the’’ and inserting the following: ‘‘(B) The term ‘marihuana’ does not include— ‘‘(i) hemp, as defined in section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946; or ‘‘(ii) the’’. (b) TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL.—Schedule I, as set forth in section 202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812(c)), is amended in subsection (c)(17) by inserting after ‘‘Tetrahydrocannabinols’’ the following: ‘‘, except for tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp (as defined under section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946)’’.
The 2018 Farm Bill confers on the DOA the regulation of hemp, and contemplates federal regulations that would allow for states to become the “primary regulator” of hemp. Importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill explicitly provides for the interstate transportation of hemp and prohibits states from restricting the interstate transportation of hemp, stating “nothing in this title or an amendment made by this title prohibits the interstate commerce of hemp (as defined in section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (as added by section 10113)) or hemp products…No State or Indian Tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (as added by section 10113) through the State or the territory of the Indian Tribe, as applicable.”
Significantly, the 2018 Farm Bill does not remove CBD derived from THC-containing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act. Consequently, the DEA’s pronouncement as described above is still in effect, CBD derived from unlawful marijuana is still unlawful. However, there is now clarity. CBD derived from “hemp,” as defined in the 2018 Farm Bill, and grown pursuant to state regulations established pursuant to the 2018 Farm Bill, is lawful and may not be the subject of federal prosecution.
Banking: It should be underscored that banks and other financial institutions, such as investment firms and insurance companies, that have been cautious or reluctant about CBD products because of their connection to unlawful marijuana may view the 2018 Farm Bill as a green light for banking, investing and insuring hemp derived CBD products as hemp and CBD derived from hemp are no longer “unlawful.”
Most importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill does not eliminate the regulation of hemp or CBD derived from hemp. Rather, it envisions the promulgation of additional federal regulations and state regulations intended to promote its growth and use, and federal agencies like the FDA may increase their involvement with CBD. Those interested in participating in the hemp and hemp derived CBD markets should retain counsel well-versed in the pertinent state and federal regulations to provide guidance that will allow for the achievement of business objectives.
As many know, hemp was a critical crop in Colonial times and some states, including Virginia, actually required farmers to grow it. Hemp was used particularly to make rope, thread, canvas and sailing cloth. Washington’s primary crop actually was hemp. Thomas Jefferson grew hemp as well.
The Mount Vernon farmers intend to use the hemp they grow to give fiber-making demonstrations at the site, which is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union. They bought the site from Washington’s descendants in 1858 for $200,000 and now about a million visitors each year tour the facility. Many do not realize that Mount Vernon is not owned by the Federal government and is not a national park.
Hemp, while derived from the cannabis plant, contains no THC and has no psychoactive effects. In June, the Senate passed a farm bill that included language effectively legalizing industrial hemp. However, the House version of the bill is silent on hemp, and a conference to deal with the differences is being arranged. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a strong supporter of legalizing hemp, which many believe will help sway some skeptical House Republicans to support those provisions.