In October of 2001, the Drug Enforcement Agency published a ruling in the Federal Register declaring industrial hemp products with any trace of residual amounts of THC to be unlawful. This interpretive rule banning hemp seed, hemp oil, and hemp food products that contained a fraction of THC occurred without any compelling reason, and without the required public notice and comment period. At the time, this action was particularly puzzling, as the DEA had not targeted the poppy seed industry for their trace amounts of opioids, and in fact, in the 1990’s, the U.S. government increased drug-testing thresholds to accommodate the poppy seed industry.
This DEA ruling was a considerable blow to the hemp industry, and resulted in a lawsuit between the DEA, and the Hemp Industries Association (HIA). Following years of litigation, in February of 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an unanimous decision in favor of the HIA, in which Judge Betty Fletcher stated: