With members of the industrial hemp industry facing unnecessary banking hurdles, several United States Senators have joined forces to urge the Department of Justice not to use funds to punish banks that do business with them.
On June 30, 2017, U.S. Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Al Franken, D-Minn., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask him to guarantee that the Department of Justice will not use federal funds to take enforcement actions against financial institutions that handle accounts for companies in the industrial hemp industry.
“While we do not believe the government should compel financial institutions to do business with the hemp industry, we are worried that the fear and uncertainty of government action—that the Department of Justice will roll back certain protections for legal industrial hemp entities—is causing financial institutions to close these accounts,” the senators wrote in their letter. “We ask for your assurance that the Department of Justice will follow the law as set out in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017 and not take any action against financial institutions for handling funds related to 2014 Farm Bill industrial hemp pilot program.”
From fiber to food to fuel, members of the industrial hemp industry cultivate hemp for various end uses; however, the DEA announced a new rule on Dec. 14, 2016, to ban hemp-based cannabidiol and the department recently issued a statement to explain why it believes CBD-based drug products derived from hemp are not permitted under the Farm Bill.
“It is important to correct a misconception that some have about the effect of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (which some refer to as the ‘farm bill’) on the legal status of ‘Charlotte’s Web’/CBD oil,” wrote the DEA in a statement to The Cannabist. “Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 authorizes institutions of higher education (e.g., universities) and state Departments of Agriculture to grow and cultivate ‘industrial hemp’ (defined under the Act as marijuana with a THC content of 0.3 percent or less) for agricultural research purposes where permitted under state law. However, the Agricultural Act of 2014 does not permit such entities, or anyone else, to produce non-FDA-approved drug products made from cannabis. Thus, the CSA and FDCA restrictions mentioned above remain in effect with respect to the production of ‘Charlotte’s Web’/CBD oil for human consumption.”
Joel Stanley, CEO of CW Hemp, responded to the DEA by explaining, “Charlotte’s Web, and many other domestic hemp products, are cultivated in full compliance with the Farm Bill, under appropriate licensing from respective state departments of agriculture in Colorado and Kentucky. Furthermore, according to the continuing Appropriations Acts of 2016 and 2017, it is the expressed intent of Congress that hemp cultivated in compliance with the Farm Bill be intended for ‘transportation, processing, and sale.'”
While the group of U.S. Senators fighting for the industrial hemp industry have taken an important step by contacting Sessions, it will likely take more than a letter to settle the industrial hemp conflict.