The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says the federal legalization of hemp is creating law enforcement complications, claiming that the policy is giving cover to criminal organizations that traffic in still-illegal marijuana.
In its annual National Drug Threat Assessment report published on Tuesday, the agency gave a critical take on the bipartisan legislative move to stop criminalizing the crop—departing from the position of other agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is overseeing the implementation of regulations for hemp.
“The 2018 Farm Bill legalizing hemp production at the federal level has further challenged law enforcement, particularly in states that legalized marijuana,” DEA said. “For example, investigations in some states in which marijuana production is legal under state law have revealed a significant number of hemp businesses and grow operations that are owned and operated by members of [drug trafficking organizations] illegally producing and trafficking marijuana.”
“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,” it continues. “Additionally, large hemp grows are sometimes used to hide marijuana plants interspersed throughout the hemp plants.”
The report is short on details, however, instead vaguely citing investigations and law enforcement accounts of such activity. But the narrative offers some insight into why DEA, according to USDA’s former secretary, resisted hemp legalization and influenced rulemaking to make regulations more restrictive than stakeholders had hoped and that lawmakers intended.
Former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said last year that DEA “really didn’t like the whole program to begin with,” referring to the crop’s legalization, and USDA “had some pushback from DEA” when it was crafting rules for the market.
Jim Higdon, chief communications officer of the Kentucky-based Cornbread Hemp, told Marijuana Moment that, in the new report, it “seems the DEA is saying that they can no longer enforce the cannabis prohibition because hemp is legal.”
“If that’s the case, then the only solution is to further legalize cannabis to take the business away from criminals,” he said. “When cannabis is legal, these DEA concerns will no longer be a problem.”
To that point, the report noted a significant decrease in illicit marijuana seizures along the southern border amid the growing state-level legalization movement. Those seizures have “decreased more than 81 percent since 2013,” DEA said.
Published: March 04, 2021