In its annual National Drug Threat Assessment report, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) calls out hemp production as a way for drug trafficking organizations to cover up illicit cannabis operations.
In its report, the DEA says a “significant number of hemp businesses and grow operations” are owned and operated by people illegally producing and trafficking cannabis. The agency claims this problem is especially prominent where marijuana production is legal.
“According to law enforcement officials, traffickers use their state-issued hemp documentation as cover for large-scale marijuana grows and marijuana loads transported across state lines,” the report says. “Additionally, large hemp grows are sometimes used to hide marijuana plants interspersed throughout the hemp plants.”
The hemp industry has long criticized the DEA’s involvement in hemp affairs, especially since production of the crop was legalized on a federal level in 2018. The most recent saga in that debate is the Hemp Industries Association’s (HIA’s) two lawsuits against the DEA for its recent interim final rule, which suggests regulating interim hemp material that is above the 0.3% THC limit.
Removing the DEA from the picture has been an ongoing battle as the agency has fought to remain a part of hemp regulation. For instance, previous U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said during a testimony to Congress that the DEA had substantial influence over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) interim final rule on hemp.
“[The DEA was] not excited about the crop as a whole anyway, and we had some pretty serious constraints,” Perdue said during a testimonial last March.
The final rule on hemp, which takes effect March 22, still requires hemp testing at a DEA-registered lab. However, that regulation has been delayed until December 2022.
Until then, the industry will likely continue to push to remove DEA influence from the industry.
“We really want to get the DEA out of the business of regulating hemp,” Jonathan Miller, general counsel for U.S. Hemp Roundtable, told Hemp Grower in September.