Denver law group suing DEA over its blanket classification of cannabinoids

Posted at 5:16 PM, Jan 18, 2017

DENVER – A Denver-based law firm specializing in cannabis law is suing the Drug Enforcement Agency over its December announcement that it would be applying a Schedule-I classification to extracts with any cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant.

The Hoban Law Group filed the lawsuit Jan. 13 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in California, on behalf of three of its clients: the Hemp Industries Association, RMH Holdings, LLC and Centuria Natural Foods, Inc.

All three of the businesses utilize either hemp or government-approved parts of the cannabis plant for their products.

The suit says that the DEA’s “final rule” on the new drug code for marijuana extract could “potentially devastate” businesses that utilize industrial hemp and other cannabinoids in their products.

The DEA says its new rule would allow it to tract cannabis extracts in order to “better track” the extracts and “comply with treaty provisions.”

But the rule notes that “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids” derived from the cannabis plant would be tracked and treated as a Schedule-I substance.

Bob Hoban, the managing partner at Hoban Law Group, argues that many of the extracts from the cannabis plant, as well as industrial hemp, are already regulated and allowed under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) and the Controlled Substance Act.

CBD oil, which utilizes certain cannabinoids that don’t have the psychoactive part of the cannabis plant, THC, would be outlawed under the new rules.

Hoban also argues that hemp seed oil, which is sold over the counter at many grocers and pharmacies, would be outlawed under the new rules despite the Controlled Substance Act only explicitly outlawing THC and that the DEA is contradicting its past statements that different cannabinoids show different effects.

“The Final Rule raises concern that this type of overreach could become more commonplace, continuing to widely affect many industrial hemp companies and a wide variety of products currently marketed for sale,” a news release on the suit from the Hoban Law Group says, adding that the rule – which the DEA says is a “recordkeeping measure” – could lead to various agencies abusing or misinterpreting the law.

Hoban acknowledged in an interview with Denver7 that the DEA and federal agencies have tried and failed to reclassify cannabinoids in the past, and said that he hopes the suit forces a court to hold the DEA accountable to Congress, which has the lawmaking power to enact such rules.

“The DEA needs to recognize that there are exempt parts of the marijuana plant and that the Farm Bill allows for hemp and extracts,” he said.

He also acknowledged that there are “some challenges ahead” regarding the suit, but said he and his law partners had anticipated those and were prepared to fight them in court.


Sign up for Denver7 email alerts to stay informed about breaking news and daily headlines.

Or, keep up-to-date by following Denver7 on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.