States Can’t Block Interstate Hemp Shipments, USDA Says

The Agricultural Department says it has power, not the Department of Justice, to regulate hemp under new Farm Bill.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last week that states they cannot interfere with the interstate transportation of hemp, even if their respective state government has yet to legalize it.

Hemp was legalized in the United States last December with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, but regulations are still being written and implemented on the federal level.

In a bulletin, the USDA said that even though the U.S. Justice Department has not acted on the legislation, the language in the Farm Bill gives the USDA the authority to deschedule hemp and determine that it is no longer included under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), the federal drug policy that lists illegal drugs.

The Agricultural Department also clarified that Native American tribes must allow their transportation across their respective territories as well. However, tribes are still able to limit its production within their jurisdictions.

And while tribes can collaborate with states that have hemp research programs, they cannot authorize research programs themselves.

The USDA still has to implement regulations and approve plans submitted by the states that have legalized have hemp up to this point. Florida, Oklahoma, Iowa, Connecticut, Georgia, and Louisiana are the latest states to pass their own hemp policies and are in the process of crafting their plans to submit to the USDA.

Federal hemp regulations are expected to be in place later this year and in time for the 2020 growing season.


Complications in Idaho

The USDA also said that the new regulations declare that hemp legalized by the 2018 Farm Bill cannot be seized as illegal.

This is a serious issue in Idaho, where recently a truck transporting hemp was seized and individuals were arrested for transporting hemp legally grown by their employer in Oregon. The drivers now face five years in jail.

“The USDA ruling provides even more support to our efforts to have our shipment returned,” said Ryan Shore, CEO of Big Sky Scientific, the company that employs the individuals. “We believe the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in our favor and order release of our property.”

Their prosecution has become exceedingly unpopular in Idaho.

“I think it’s great,” Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said of the USDA’s ruling. “I hope that it is one more thing nudging the prosecutors to drop the charges.”

In addition, more than 13,000 people have signed a petition demanding the individuals be released.

However, the judge in the case does not believe the new regulation apply.

While the Idaho Legislature sought to legalize hemp earlier this year, they adjourned before they could come to an agreement.

Hemp, a member of the Cannabis sativa family, does not contain a sufficient amount of the mind-altering psychotropic chemical THC, unlike its cousin marijuana.

Instead, its stalks and seeds have been harvested for centuries to produce a wide array of products, including rope, paper, textiles, building materials, and CBD oil products, among many others. Learn more about the differences between hemp and marijuana.

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