DEA Won't Waive Registration Requirement for NoDak Farmers

The DEA wants to keep the hemp all to themselves. Selfish bastards.

In this week’s print edition, "Reefer Madness" incorrectly reported that, at press time, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s top narco, Karen Tandy, had not yet responded to North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson’s request that Tandy’s agency waive federal registration requirements for individual NoDak farmers licensed by the state to grow industrial hemp. In fact, that was an error caused by a miscommunication with Johnson’s office.

As it turns out, Tandy’s deputy assistant administrator in the DEA Office of Diversion Control, Joseph T. Rannazzisi, penned a three-page letter to Johnson, received in Bismarck, N.D., on Feb. 1, denying the waiver request. The problem, writes Rannazzisi, is, in essence, that to waive registration would mean waiving DEA oversight – and that ain’t gonna happen. According to the DEA, “registration” of industrial hemp farmers “is the foundation” of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act – the federal legislation that (erroneously, many think) offered the DEA oversight of hemp, even though its cultivation is a purely agricultural endeavor. Of course, the DEA doesn’t see things that way.

Indeed, according to Rannazzisi’s letter, the agency doesn’t even consider “industrial hemp” a term to use when discussing this issue, since the CSA only talks about “marihuana” and “’cannabis’ and defines marihuana without distinction based on [tetrahydracannibinol] content,” the main psychoactive ingredient in pot. “Thus, under federal law, the THC content of marijuana is irrelevant to whether it may be grown for industrial purposes,” Rannazzisi writes. “Rather, whether a person may cultivate cannabis for industrial purposes under federal law depends on whether the person has obtained a DEA registration” to do so.

For sure, all roads in Rannazzisi’s letter lead back to one basic thing: The DEA gets to do what the DEA wants to do. And in this case, the DEA wants to maintain its stranglehold on hemp – and to continue to behave as though the nonnarcotic cousin of pot were actually a drug. To be clear, hemp is different than pot, most importantly in that it contains only trace amounts of THC and, thus, is not a drug. Yet, refusing to acknowledge these botanical realities is the only way that the DEA can continue to justify its oversight. And justify, Rannazzisi does: “Indeed, as a practical matter, the [DEA] registration requirement is the primary means by which DEA ensures that legitimate handlers of controlled substances abide by the regulatory requirements of the CSA and DEA regulations,” he writes. And more: “Manufacturers” – in this case, he means NoDak farmers – “are the starting point of the distribution chain and the part of the chain most crucial to controlling the nation’s supply of lawfully produced controlled substances. To waive the requirement of registration for manufacturers of any controlled substance would make it essentially impossible for DEA to ensure that such manufacturers comply with the controls mandated by the CSA and DEA,” he continued.

And, finally, there’s this – the grand cap to the DEA argument: “To waive the requirement of registration for manufacturers of marijuana – which is the most widely abused controlled substance in the United States and, as a schedule I controlled substance, is subject to the strictest CSA controls – is untenable.”

In other words, the DEA is here to keep us safe from the unfettered proliferation of an environmentally friendly, sustainable crop. Now there’s a mission to be proud of.

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Industrial Hemp, hemp, Roger Johnson, DEA

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