Hempwise and other organizations that sell products containing hemp will be able to stay in business for now, pending an expected victory in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Oct. 9, 2001, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a reinterpretation of the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 that declares any foods containing trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) to be controlled substances and therefore illegal. In response, the Hemp Industries Association and seven other petitioners filed an Urgent Motion for Stay, pending review with the 9th Circuit Court. The motion stated the ban violated the Administrative Procedures Act because it was issued without notice or opportunity for comment and will cause harm to the hemp-growing industry. The motion to stay was granted on March 7, 2002.
Kenex Ltd. of Chatham, Ontario -North America’s largest producer of hemp seed- filed a $20 million lawsuit against the U.S. government because the ban threatens the Canadian industry and violates World Trade Organization rules requiring countries to conduct risk-assessment tests before prohibiting products. Commercial farming of industrial hemp has been legal in Canada since 1998.
Industrial hemp is made from the stalks and seeds of the cannabis plant, the same plant from which marijuana is derived. Marijuana leaves typically contain 5 to 20 percent THC, a psychoactive chemical that produces the marijuana “high.” Industrial hemp, however, contains only 0.3 percent THC – too small an amount to have any significant psychoactive effect if consumed.
“Many Americans do not know that hemp and marijuana are both parts of the same plant and that hemp cannot be produced without producing marijuana,” DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson said.
According to the DEA, the presence of THC in hemp products is significant because it is classified as a Schedule One controlled substance and is therefore illegal in products that enter the body.
Some of the hemp-containing products the DEA is attempting to outlaw are special hemp-containing varieties of beer, cheese, coffee, corn chips, energy drinks, flour, snack bars, salad oil, soda and vegetarian burger patties. Products that would still be legal include birdseed, clothing, cosmetics, lotion, paper, rope, twine, yarn, shampoo and soap.
Efforts to legalize hemp farming in California have received political resistance. In February 2001, Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin (D-Duncans Mills) introduced Assembly Bill 388, which would authorize a UC study on the profitability of growing hemp if the government lifted its ban, but Gov. Gray Davis vetoed the bill in September 2002.
It is currently legal to import hemp fiber and nonviable seeds and sell products containing hemp. Adam Eidinger of Votehemp.com said he is expecting the 9th Circuit Court to support the hemp industry in its decision.
“We expect the decision will be positive,” he said. “I suspect the federal courts are taking their time because they see no pressing need to make a decision.”
Eidinger said the Court has given no indication of voting otherwise, so the hemp industry can only wait for the decision to be finalized.
“If we win, this will open the floodgates for funding and the use of hemp seeds in food and other products,” he said.