We hope to answer some common questions about industrial hemp, the low-THC oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis.


Are hemp foods legal to import, buy, and consume in the United States?


Yes. The case HIA v DEA established that hemp foods are exempt from control in the Controlled Substances Act and that they remain legal. An excellent overview of the case can be found on the DEA Hemp Food Rules page. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion invalidating DEA final rules can be downloaded here and directly from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals here. (PDF file 72k)


Is industrial hemp illegal to grow in the United States?


Technically the answer is no, it is not illegal to grow hemp in the U.S. and it has only been in its current state since the adoption of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970. Tara Christine Brady noted this in her 2003 story "The Argument for the Legalization of Industrial Hemp" in the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review:

"Currently it is illegal to grow hemp in the United States without a special Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) permit being issued."

Renée Johnson, of the Congressional Research Service, also noted this in her 2012 CRS Report "Hemp as an Agricultural Commodity" for the U.S. Congress:

"Strictly speaking, the CSA does not make Cannabis illegal; rather, it places the strictest controls on its production, making it illegal to grow the crop without a DEA permit."

Growing hemp is kind of like driving, you can't drive without a license and you can't grow hemp without a permit. The difference is that it is almost impossible to get a permit from DEA to grow hemp.

Christine A. Kolosov, in her Comment "Evaluating The Public Interest: Regulation Of Industrial Hemp Under The Controlled Substances Act" in the UCLA Law Review, notes that:

"no court has actually considered whether, in light of the CSA's balancing test, the DEA can legitimately deny or delay licenses to cultivate industrial hemp. I argue that it cannot, particularly when states have adopted regulatory schemes like the one enacted in North Dakota."

Ms. Kolosov continues:

"In Part III, I explicate the federal registration requirements of the Controlled Substances Act outlined in 21 U.S.C. § 823(a), and illustrate that the statute's six factors compel the DEA to grant permits to farmers licensed under North Dakota law. I also argue that denying such applications is contrary to legislative intent."


I thought that the difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp is the male and marijuana is the female, is this not true?


There is a misconception that drug varieties are the female plant and hemp is the male. This is incorrect. Industrial hemp, the oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, is low in THC and high in CBD, both male and female plants. This is true for both the dioecious varieties, which have male and female flowers on separate plants, as well as the monoecious varieties, which have both male and female flowers on the same plant, such as the early grain variety Anka or the French fiber variety Fibrimon.


What is the difference between hemp and marijuana?


Marijuana and hemp both come from the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa L., but from different varieties or cultivars. There are different varieties of Cannabis, just as Chihuahuas and wolves are different breeds of Canis lupus.

Marijuana is the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive varieties of Cannabis that are grown for their high THC content.

Hemp, also referred to as industrial hemp, is the low-THC oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, which is grown for their seeds and fiber. Hemp is grown legally in just about every industrialized country except the USA.