Column: War on drugs should not include hemp

"Yesterday, two farmers filed suit in the federal district court of North Dakota. They are seeking a declaratory judgment against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that would allow them to cultivate hemp, a profitable crop with many legal uses.

The DEA, however, is likely to strongly defend the suit. After all, ever since its very inception, the DEA has feared that if it allows "industrial" hemp to be produced, the result will be to seriously undermine its war on drugs, including marijuana. As I will explain, its position has led to a bizarre and, some argue, utterly irrational situation: It makes little sense for the War on Drugs to also include a War on Hemp.

One case decided in 2006 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, United States v. White Plume, is especially unfortunate.

The case arose because in 1998, the Oglala Sioux Tribe amended its tribal law to allow cultivation of "industrial hemp" on tribal lands, and some of its members did so. Rather than prosecute, the government twice destroyed the crop, and then sought a declaratory judgment against White Plume.

The district court obliged, as did the Eighth Circuit, which deferred to the DEA's construction of the drug laws and held that all THC-containing articles - including cannabis plants - are Schedule I-prohibited.

What accounts for a decision that prohibited a Native American tribe from growing and selling hemp for harmless industrial purposes? The short answer is that courts are generally inclined to defer to agencies' interpretations of the statutes they are charged with enforcing - in this case, the CDAPCA and CSA."

Get the Story:
Jamison Colburn: A New Suit By Farmers Against the DEA Illustrates Why The War on Drugs Should Not Include a War on Hemp (FindLaw.Com 6/19)

Court Decision:
US v. White Plume (May 17, 2006)

Relevant Links:
Oglala Sioux Tribe -
Pine Ridge Hemp Project -

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