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Hemp growers may try to block federal ban on marijuana extracts

Oil containing CBD from agricultural hemp is displayed at the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Chicago on May 20, 2015.
Oil containing CBD from agricultural hemp is displayed at the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Chicago on May 20, 2015. AP

When Colorado began selling legal marijuana in 2014, hundreds of families from around the nation saw new hope for their children who suffered from seizures.

They flocked to the state in search of a cure: a liquid form of marijuana known as CBD oil. That’s short for cannabidiol, an extract that many parents say has helped their children, even though the drug has never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the DEA said the new scheduling for marijuana extracts would take effect on Jan. 13. On Monday, the Hemp Industries Association said the DEA had misused its authority.

Now a new fight is brewing after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said last week that CBD oil and other “marijuana extracts” would be included in the government’s list of Schedule 1 drugs, which includes heroin and LSD, drugs considered to have no medical value.

On Monday, the Hemp Industries Association said the DEA had misused its authority and that only Congress or the U.S. attorney general could add CBD oil to the list of banned substances. And the trade association said it was “strongly considering legal action” to block the DEA’s move.

We urge consumers and businesses not to panic.

Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association

The hemp association said that CBD products should be defined as “supplements,” not drugs or pharmaceuticals subject to control by the DEA. And the group said it was wrong to classify all CBD products as “marijuana extracts” because the oil could be produced from both marijuana and hemp plants.

Eric Steenstra, the group’s executive director, said Congress had already ruled on the subject by allowing hemp growers to produce CBD oil in a growing number of states under its last major farm bill in 2014. Kentucky is among the leaders in the industry.

“We urge consumers and businesses not to panic,” he said.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, the DEA said the new scheduling for marijuana extracts would take effect on Jan. 13.

Chuck Rosenberg, the agency’s acting administrator, said the new listing would help the federal government better track the illegal substances and make it easier for the U.S. to comply with international drug control treaties approved by the United Nations.

Rob Hotakainen: 202-383-6154, @HotakainenRob

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