Pubdate: Mon, 05 May 2003
Source: Daily Camera (CO)
Copyright: 2003 The Daily Camera.
Author: Benedict Carey, Los Angeles Times
Bookmark: (Hemp)


They're nutritious and full of fiber.

Yet because cereals, snack bars and other foods made with hempseed and hemp 
oil contain trace amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, the 
Bush administration has been trying to ban these products - increasingly 
popular with health enthusiasts - for about a year.

The products will remain on retailers' shelves for now after a U.S. Appeals 
Court in San Francisco said last month that it would review a federal 
ruling that such products are illegal. Under a 1970 federal law known as 
the Controlled Substance Act, marijuana is listed as a controlled 
substance, along with heroin, ecstasy, LSD and other drugs of abuse, said 
Will Glaspy, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 
whose ruling would prohibit the sale of hemp products. "There seems to be 
an increase in food products with hemp lately," he said, "and the agency 
wanted to clarify what the law says."

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a stay of the 
DEA ruling, which would have gone into effect April 21. The ruling has been 
under challenge by the Hemp Industries Association, an Occidental, 
Calif.-based trade group that contends there is no evidence that hempseed 
and hemp oil can be abused or that the food products pose a health or 
safety risk. It could be a year before the court finishes its review of the 
DEA decision.

Manufacturers of hemp products have been lobbying to stave off the 
government's effort, which they say could have an adverse effect on the 
fledgling industry.

"I just don't get it," said Steve Levine, president of the Hemp Industries 
Association. "I mean, there's more opium in poppy seed bagels than there is 
THC in these foods."

Flower buds of marijuana plants typically contain 5 percent to 25 percent 
of THC by dry weight, Levine said. By contrast, the hemp harvested to make 
foods and other products has buds with 0.3 percent THC content.

Industrial hemp growers, who supply seed and fiber, breed varieties of the 
marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa, with sufficiently low THC levels that 
they produce no psychoactive effect in humans, manufacturers say. "No one's 
getting high on this stuff," said David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's 
Magic Soaps in Escondido, Calif., which makes products containing hemp. "I 
feel this is very much a culture war kind of thing, declaring all things 
cannabis to be bad and comparing it to crack and heroin."

Hemp's long, tough fibers have been used to make ropes, paper and other 
products for more than a thousand years. For food companies, the appeal of 
hemp is that it's a relatively cheap source of fiber with a high 
concentration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to 
reduce the risk of heart disease.

The DEA's Glaspy said the agency has no evidence that hemp foods are 
causing health problems or are especially habit-forming. Yet the law is the 
law, he said, and ought to be clarified as soon as possible.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager