Politics & Government

NC hemp commission won’t join lawsuit against DEA

In this Sept. 23, 2014, file photo, a tractor cuts a small plot of hemp at a University of Kentucky research plot near Lexington, Ky. The N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission is approving applications from farmers who want to grow hemp as part of a pilot program in the state.
In this Sept. 23, 2014, file photo, a tractor cuts a small plot of hemp at a University of Kentucky research plot near Lexington, Ky. The N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission is approving applications from farmers who want to grow hemp as part of a pilot program in the state. AP

The N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission does not plan to join a lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, at least for now.

The commission, created in 2015 by the General Assembly to foster a hemp industry in the state, last week expressed support for an Asheboro company that said it plans to sue the DEA over its ruling that products made with CBD or cannabidiol hemp are illegal and cannot be transported across state lines. Bob Crumley, president of Founder’s Hemp, asked the commission to join the suit.

But on Thursday, commission members said they have asked the Attorney General’s Office to contact the U.S. Department of Justice to try to reconcile why the DEA interprets laws about the transportation of hemp differently than Congress. Although the idea of eventually joining a lawsuit against the DEA has not been ruled out, commission chairman Tom Melton said it wanted to pursue other options before getting involved in litigation.

“The state is hesitant to move forward until we have tried to get some resolution directly from the Department of Justice,” said Melton, deputy director of N.C. Cooperative Extension at N.C. State University. “We feel it is our responsibility to explore all the options.”

Crumley could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Hemp is in the same cannabis family as marijuana, but contains negligible amounts of THC, the psychoactive chemical that provides the “high” associated with marijuana. It is used in the manufacture of fabrics, fuels, plastics and construction materials, among others products.

Melton said commission members support Crumley’s position, even if they might not join any lawsuit that he files. He said that the 2014 Farm Bill passed by Congress allows universities and state departments of agriculture to grow industrial hemp for research, and added that the DEA’s ruling and Congress appear to be in conflict on the subject.

Rachel Chason: 919-829-4629

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