Mature hemp plants are examined at the CBDRx Natural Healing organic hemp farm in Longmont, Colorado, in October 2015. (RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file)

Hemp producers in North Dakota holding back amid CBD controversy

BISMARCK, N.D. — As North Dakota’s hemp industry grows, legal questions have kept producers from making one of the crop’s most desirable products.

Bottles of cannabidiol were recently seized from in Watford City and Bismarck stores, where the owner faces felony charges for selling it, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive substance derived from cannabis plants, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers most cannabidiol to be a Schedule I illegal drug.

“It has some great effects to it,” said Clarence Laub, a hemp producer near Elgin, who considered producing cannabidiol. “With the (Schedule I) classification, I won’t go near it.”

The problem with cannabidiol isn’t the substance itself, but that most of the available product comes from manufacturers who make their product from plants the agency considers to be marijuana, not hemp, DEA spokesman Melvin Patterson said. Marijuana contains more of the psychoactive drug tetrahydrocannabinol than hemp.

“The problem is, how do you know when you get the final product, where it originated from?” Patterson said.

The Hemp Industries Association has sued the DEA, saying the federal agency is overstepping its authority to deem cannabidiol an illegal drug.

The hemp industry argues that cannabidiol derived from hemp is legal because of the 2014 Farm Bill, which allowed for states to set up industrial hemp production. Industry groups allege the DEA has mislabeled a drug that should be considered legal by confusing marijuana and hemp.

“We believe there is a further intention and motive here, which is to control the flowers and leaves of the industrial hemp plant, and they haven’t gone through the proper procedures to do that,” said Patrick Goggin, attorney for the association.

Patterson said the product was always illegal.

State officials are “waiting and watching” until the issue is decided by Congress or a court, said Rachel Seifert-Spilde, plant protection specialist at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

Information from: Bismarck Tribune