Legality of hemp food, cosmetic products affirmed

WASHINGTON, DC, September 30, 2004 (ENS): Time has run out for the Bush administration to appeal a court ruling earlier this year protecting the sale and consumption of hemp food and cosmetic products in the United States.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on February 6, 2004 in the case of the Hemp Industries Association v. the Drug Enforcement Administration that the agency ignored the exemption in the Controlled Substances Act that excludes hemp fiber, seed and oil from control.

"They cannot regulate naturally occuring THC not contained within or derived from marijuana," the three judge panel ruled, noting that it is not possible to get high from products with only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical.

THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but sterilized hemp seed and oil are exempted from the Controlled Substances Act under the statutory definition of marijuana.

On October 9, 2001 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued an Interpretive Rule banning any edible item containing hemp seed or oil that contains "any THC."

The DEA confiscated truckloads of hemp seed imported from Canada and prosecuted the Hemp Industries Association on the grounds that industrial hemp varieties of cannabis contain trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

The administration's allotted time to appeal the Ninth Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court expired earlier this week. "The mandate of the Ninth Circuit is final and their decision will now be the law of the land," said Joseph Sandler, lead attorney for the Hemp Industries Association.

"Removing the cloud the DEA put into the marketplace will spur a dramatic surge in the supply and consumption of healthy omega-3 rich hemp seed in America," says David Bronner, chair of the HIA's Food and Oil Committee and president of ALPSNACK/Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "This is a huge victory for the hemp industry."

"More and more health foods containing omega-3 rich hemp nut and oil will be appearing on store shelves since the legal status is no longer an issue," said Alexis Baden-Mayer, director of government affairs for Vote Hemp.

"Americans are looking for healthy alternative sources of omega-3 to supplement their diets due to concerns regarding trace mercury in fish and fish oil supplements," said Baden-Mayer.

Currently, the U.S. marketplace is supplied by hemp seed grown and processed in Canada and Europe, but Baden-Mayer said the Hemp Industries Association will lobby Congress to again allow American farmers to grow industrial hemp and "participate in this lucrative growth market."

U.S. hemp food companies voluntarily observe reasonable THC limits similar to those adopted by European nations and Canada. These limits protect consumers with a wide margin of safety from workplace drug testing interference.

The United States granted the first hemp permit in over 40 years to Hawaii for an experimental quarter acre plot in 1999. The license has been renewed since. Twenty-two states have introduced legislation to permit the cultivation of industrial hemp. Vermont, Hawaii, North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois Virginia, New Mexico, California, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland and West Virginia have passed legislation for support, research, or cultivation. The National Conference of State Legislators has endorsed industrial hemp.

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