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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, October 10, 2001

DEA rules ban edible hemp products

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

Supporters of industrial hemp say they will pursue a temporary restraining order and other legal action to halt implementation of federal rules issued yesterday that would ban edible hemp products.

The rules by the Drug Enforcement Administration, published in the Federal Register, give merchants 120 days to dispose of food products such as beer, pasta, tortilla chips, candy bars, salad dressing and cheese when the items contain tetrahydrocannabinols, known as THC.

Exemptions apply to products such as paper, animal feed, clothing and rope, and personal-care items such as shampoos, soaps and lotions.

Hemp advocates had expressed concern that the new rules would outlaw personal-care items, but an interim rule also published in the Federal Register yesterday said that without any studies available on whether these products introduce THC into the body, the agency will assume they do not and thus exempt them from the Controlled Substances Act.

THC is the compound that gives marijuana its euphoric effect. Supporters of industrial hemp, another form of cannabis, argue that THC levels in hemp are too low to have any narcotic effect.

Although Kathy Barr, owner of the Hemp House in Pa'ia, Maui, apparently will be able to continue manufacturing a popular line of hemp-based lotions, she said she was shocked by the DEA ruling on food products.

"I never thought they would do it. I thought they had some understanding that you don't get high from the product and it's wonderful for you," she said.

The DEA said it was issuing its interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act because of numerous inquiries in recent months regarding hemp products that contain THC.

The agency said it rejected arguments that classifying hemp as a controlled substance is contrary to court rulings and the history of federal drug laws.

Representatives of the international Hemp Industries Association, which held its convention on Maui last week, and the Vote Hemp Inc. advocacy group are in Washington coordinating legal action against the DEA rules.

In a joint statement, David Bronner and Eric Steenstra of Vote Hemp characterized the rules as the latest attempt by the DEA to "sabotage" the hemp industry. They said DEA has chosen to ignore the industry-established Test Pledge program in which hemp companies assure consumers they will not test positive for marijuana in workplace drug screenings, even if they consume large amounts of food containing hemp.