DEA Hit With Hemp Industry Lawsuit

Stakeholders in the American hemp industry have filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to challenge a recently-implemented rule that they say could have far-reaching consequences.

On Friday, September 18, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and South Carolina hemp manufacturer and retailer RE Botanicals filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

HIA is a trade association representing approximately 1,050 hemp businesses, including 300 processors and others who are involved with or impacted by the manufacture, distribution, and sale of legal industrial hemp-derived products.

Representing the petitioners in the lawsuit are the Hoban Law Group, appellate attorneys from Yetter Coleman LLP, Kight Law Office PC, and hemp industry attorneys at Vicente Sederberg LLP.

The lawsuit requests that the court review the Implementation of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 that the DEA promulgated on August 21.

The lawsuit claims that the interim final rule is unlawful because it is a violation of the 2018 Farm Bill and exceeds the limits of the DEA’s authority.

“When Congress passed the 2018 farm bill, it explicitly carved hemp and its derivatives out of the Controlled Substances Act so that hemp can be regulated as an agricultural commodity,” says HIA President Rick Trojan. “The DEA’s interim final rule could create substantial barriers to the legal manufacturing of hemp-derived products, a critical component of the hemp supply chain, and devastate the entire hemp industry.”

Trojan says that, while the DEA claims that it is not their intention to harm the hemp industry, the rule needs to be amended to ensure that hemp remains the agricultural crop that Congress intended.

RE Botanicals CEO, Janel Ralph says that the DEA’s new rule could put her company out of business overnight.

In 2019, RE Botanicals acquired Palmetto Synergistic Research LLC (Palmetto Harmony), a company founded to produce high-quality legal hemp products.

Vicente Sederberg LLP partner Shawn Hauser stated in a Hoban press release that the DEA implemented the rule without adhering to the proper rule-making procedures, such as notifying the public and providing an opportunity for them to comment.

Hauser says that the petitioners believe that they need to take legal action to protect the legal hemp industry in the United States, which Congress intended to establish when it passed the 2018 Farm Bill.