Judge Says Lack of State and Federal Plans Means That the Farm Bill’s Interstate Commerce Protections for Hemp Don’t ApplyApril 9, 2019
We previously posted about what the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (commonly referred to as the Farm Bill) did, and did not, do with respect to “hemp” and CBD products derived from hemp. In that post, we noted that the Farm Bill did not preempt state laws that were more stringent. Our prior post did not discuss the Farm Bill’s interstate commerce provisions, which recently have become the focus of litigation.
Under section 10114, “Interstate Commerce,” there are two provisions–
- Subsection (a) states as a “RULE OF CONSTRUCTION” that “[n]othing in this title or an amendment made by this title prohibits the interstate commerce of hemp (as defined in section 297A of the Agricultural Marketing Act of1946 (as added by section 10113)) or hemp products.”
- Subsection (b), titled “TRANSPORTATION OF HEMP AND HEMP PRODUCTS” provides that “[n]o State or Indian Tribe shall prohibit the transportation or shipment of hemp or hemp products produced in accordance with subtitle G of the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 (as added by section 10113) through the State or the territory of the Indian Tribe, as applicable.”
The meaning of “in accordance with” played a major role in a recent decision denying a request for emergency relief in connection with what seems to have been “hemp,” under the Farm Bill. Briefly, in Big Sky Scientific LLC v. Idaho State Police, the Idaho state police seized nearly 13,000 pounds of what appears to be hemp. They did so because hemp is a controlled substance under Idaho law. The hemp (or according to Idaho “contraband”) was produced in Oregon and was in route to Colorado. Idaho took the position that the Farm Bill’s section 10114(b) protection against a state prohibiting transport of hemp did not apply because subtitle G contains provisions setting forth how the Secretary of USDA can “approve” or disapprove” a state or tribal “plan,” or establish his own “plan.” Idaho argued that until such a plan is approved or established, no hemp can be produced “in accordance with subtitle G.” At the emergency motion stage, the court agreed finding:
[T]he cargo that was seized on January 24, 2019 was not hemp that has been “produced in accordance with subtitle G.” It could not have been produced in accordance with subtitle G because Oregon does not have a federally approved plan and the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture has yet to establish its own plan as Subtitle G requires be done. This is undisputed. It matters not whether the cargo might meet the requirements of subtitle G if such a plan (or something similar) had existed when the crop was grown and harvested, or whether the implementation of the production plan by the Department of Agriculture was delayed somehow because of the recent shutdown of certain operations of the federal government. There simply is no such plan in place and therefore the cargo, whether described as hemp or marijuana, could not have been produced in accordance with subtitle G and therefore could not be subject to the protection of interstate commerce as provided by the 2018 Farm Bill.
The Court made clear that this was not a final determination on the merits and the litigation is proceeding. We’ll continue to monitor this litigation and other developments. In the meantime, anyone distributing hemp or CBD products derived from it would do well to check their distribution routes against the varying state laws.