The powerful chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is calling out the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration over roadblocks the agency has erected to industrial hemp production and sales.
“There should be an easier path for people with a product that is commercially viable for a lot of purposes,” Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg at an oversight hearing on Tuesday before his panel’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.
“It should be able to be produced in a more convenient way and more accessible to the market,” he said.
Referring to a recent DEA Federal Register filing maintaining the Schedule I status of cannabidiol (CBD) alongside marijuana and other drugs, Goodlatte asked Rosenberg, “Are you looking to harass hemp farmers?”
Noting that DEA is working behind the scenes with the lawmaker’s staff to find a solution, Rosenberg said, “No, as long as they abide by section 7606 of the Farm Bill. We are not looking to harass those who abide by that statute, no sir.”
That legislation allows cultivation of industrial hemp “for purposes of research conducted under an agricultural pilot program or other agricultural or academic research” in accordance with state laws. Nonetheless, DEA has gone after people acting in compliance with the law in at least one instance.
The Federal Register notice on CBD that DEA published last December is the subject of a pending federal lawsuit.
Also at the House hearing, lawmakers laid into DEA over a recent Department of Justice Inspector General’s report that found the agency “has not fully accounted for the national security, foreign relations and civil liberties risks” inherent in its reliance on confidential informants.
While Rosenberg testified that the agency has put new procedures in place to deal with informants more properly, DEA has resisted requests to distribute copies of the revised policy to Congress.
As a result, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) revealed that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which he chairs, is issuing a subpoena for the documents.
Other members at the hearing voiced broad criticisms of the nation’s war on drugs. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), for example, detailed the growth of DEA’s budget and employment numbers over the past several decades and noted, “The drug crisis in America has not gotten better, it’s gotten worse.”
And Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) decried racial disparities in drug law enforcement, eliciting a revelation by Rosenberg that he doesn’t personally track data on whether his agency is enforcing drug laws in a racially discriminatory manner.
“I don’t have those numbers and I don’t ask for them and I don’t keep them,” he said.
Separately, Rosenberg told Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX) that the Trump administration’s proposed Mexican border wall would not stop the drug trade.
“With significant profit margins, they will find a way,” he said, referring to cartels that smuggle drugs into the U.S.