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Asa Hutchinson Says Final Rule Has Not Been Promulgated

WASHINGTON, DC — Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) head Asa Hutchinson 
appeared on the National Public Radio program Public Interest this week with Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra to discuss the DEA’s new “Interpretive Rule” which bans safe and nutritious hemp foods containing “any THC.” The DEA issued this rule despite the fact that the trace infinitesimal THC present in Congressionally-exempted hemp seed and oil is thousands of times below the psychoactive threshold and poses no threat to drug-testing programs under the hemp industry’s TestPledge program (see

Mr. Hutchinson’s appearance was the first time he has publicly defended the controversial new rule that has spawned protests at DEA offices in 76 cities, a high-profile legal confrontation with the hemp industry, a $20 million NAFTA lawsuit, and criticism from thousands of hemp food consumers. To read more about the “Interpretive Rule” issued on October 9, 2001 and other related documents, please visit

Mr. Hutchinson clarified for the first time that the new rule is not necessarily final and could be changed following a complete review of the public comments. “The Interpretive Rule puts the public and companies on notice as to how we’re going to apply and interpret the law… But we seek comments on it and we are obliged and should consider these comments, and after we evaluate those comments we can issue a Final Rule that will discuss the comments from the public, make any adjustments that are reasonably justified and necessary, and then that Final Rule will be implemented,” said Mr. Hutchinson. When asked if the rule has been “promulgated” yet, the DEA Administrator said “No.”

“We’re pleased that the DEA appears to be backpedaling from enforcing their rule, but they are misinterpreting the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) period, which clearly exempts sterilized hemp seed and oil. We will not stop our grassroots, legal and legislative efforts to ensure nutritious hemp foods remain on over 10,000 store shelves until this rule is invalidated and set aside by either the Court, Congress or the DEA itself,” said Mr. Steenstra.

Despite explicit language in the CSA that exempts hemp seed and oil from the DEA’s control under the statutory definition of marijuana (exactly like the exemption for poppy seeds under the statutory definition of opium poppy), Mr. Hutchinson continues to wildly misinterpret the law. “There is no such exemption for any part of the Cannabis plant that contains THC. We are bound by the law,” said Hutchinson.

“I don’t know what law he is reading; he is simply wrong,” says Steenstra. “The DEA doesn’t want to admit that in the exact same section as the poppy seed exemption there is an exemption for hemp seeds and oil. This duplicity leaves hemp companies no choice but to look to the courts to invalidate the DEA’s rule.”

During the program, Mr. Hutchinson admitted, “We have received thousands and thousands of comments on this … clearly the public and the industry has submitted their comments and (they) will be considered before any Final Rule is adopted.” After receiving numerous hostile calls from listeners, Hutchinson said “At the DEA, we certainly are not against the hemp industry. We’re against THC which is what we are concerned about under the law.”

Steenstra, clearly frustrated, repeatedly pointed out to Hutchinson that the THC defined in the CSA is defined as synthetic THC only, and has nothing to do with the infinitesimal trace natural THC present in the exempted hemp seed and oil. Hutchinson had no explanation for why the DEA is not similarly trying to override the poppy seed exemption because of its trace opiate content, even though the separate definition in the CSA for opiates, unlike THC, refers to natural as well as synthetic.


Vote Hemp is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the acceptance of and a free market for industrial hemp and to changes in current law to allow U.S. farmers to once again grow hemp commercially.