Pubdate: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 
Source: Auburn Journal
Copyright: 1999 Auburn Journal
Contact:  1030 High St., Auburn, CA 95603
Author: Patrick McCartney, Journal City Editor
Note: Our newshawk writes: Pat McCartney is a City Editor, in a
zero-tolerance county.   McCartney shows great skill and patience in
educating his audience without offending their local values. He can be
reached at  
Please: see our ALERT "DEA Tries To Kill North American Hemp Industry": 


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has opened a new front in its
ever-expanding war against drugs, and the news is not good for your
pet parakeet.

On Aug. 9, the U.S. Customs Service seized nearly 20 tons of birdseed
at the U.S.-Canadian border and continues to hold the contraband in a
Detroit warehouse. The reason? The shipment by Kenex Ltd., a Canadian
company, consisted entirely of sterilized seeds gleaned from its
harvest of industrial hemp.

The reason for this bizarre act by the DEA is that hemp can also be
cultivated for its intoxicating effect and in that form is known as
marijuana, a drug that is currently illegal.

When it seized the Kenex shipment, the DEA announced that the birdseed
had a THC content - marijuana's psychoactive ingredient - of .0014
percent. Never mind that marijuana has a typical THC content of 5
percent or more.

According to an Oct. 3 article by Christopher Wren in the New York
Times, a Kenex official said the Customs Service ordered him to recall
earlier exports to the United States of hemp oil, horse bedding,
animal feed and granola bars, or face more than $500,000 in fines.

The seizure came as a blow to Nutiva, a California company based in
Sebastapol that distributes Kenex products in the western United
States. According to John Roulac, Nutiva's president, the company has
lost $40,000 in sales of its popular Nutiva hempseed bar since the

The Sonoma County company sold 100,000 of the nutritious bars in just
the last five months, but with the DEA-ordered action, Nutiva has lost
some major accounts, including Rite Aid drug stores, Roulac said.

"The number one selling hemp products today are body care and food
products, and that's what (the DEA) is going after," Roulac said
Friday. "It's a major hassle. This is basically an attack on the
Canadian hemp industry."

Roulac insists that the hemp products he sells have nothing to do with

"If you smoke (industrial) hemp, you get a headache," Roulac said. "If
you smoke more hemp, you'll get a bigger headache."

The DEA's rash act undoubtedly will strengthen the hand of those
anti-drug-war activists who claim that the 1937 Marijuana Stamp Act
was not aimed at any drug problem, but instead was intended to crush
the legal hemp industry.

Hemp was the world's most important crop for as long as 10,000 years,
providing nutritious seeds (the basis of gruel), durable paper and
fabric (original Levi jeans) and all the ropes and canvas sails used
in the world's sailing fleet.

For more than 200 years, colonial Americans could pay their taxes in

But hemp had one principal fault - it required intensive manual labor
to separate the fibrous stalks from the nearly pure cellulose "hurds"
within the stalks (used as oakum to seal wooden ships). With the
invention of the cotton gin in 1793, cotton dropped in price and
replaced hemp in popularity in the United States by the mid-19th century.

Perhaps it was only coincidental timing, but the equivalent of the
cotton gin for hemp was perfected by the mid-1930s, leading Popular
Mechanics to trumpet the return of hemp as the most important fiber
plant, predicting it would become the world's first billion-dollar

Some pro-hemp activists believe that the imminent return of hemp
threatened certain entrenched interests, including William Randolph
Hearst's wood-pulp paper mills (Hearst demonized "marijuana" in his
tabloid papers) and DuPont, which was beginning to produce synthetic
fibers from petroleum. (DuPont's banker, Andrew Mellon, appointed his
nephew-in-law Harry Anslinger as the nation's first drug czar.)

During the 1937 congressional hearings, the sponsors of the marijuana
prohibition assured those in the tiny hemp industry that the ban would
not affect their trade. In fact, sterilized hemp seeds, hemp oil and
meal were specifically exempted from the Marijuana Stamp Act. Until

Perhaps the real reason for the DEA's action is the current resurgence
of interest in industrial hemp, which is occurring on a global scale
at the same time AIDS and cancer activists have fought for the right
to use higher-THC varieties as medication.

There are now 33 countries that allow the cultivation of hemp for
industrial uses, including England, Canada, Germany and France. Canada
allowed the first crop of industrial hemp to be grown last year, and
this year authorized the cultivation of 35,000 acres.

Just as it has fought the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the
DEA must consider industrial hemp a threat to its hard-line stance
against marijuana. That may explain why it urged Nicaraguan officials
to burn the first commercial seed and fiber crop of another Canadian
company, Agro Hemp, which had spent five years in Nicaragua developing
a tropical strain of industrial hemp.

Although a Nicaraguan court failed to find Agro Hemp guilty of
wrongdoing, its botanist has languished in a Managua jail for nearly a

It's enough to make a canary sing the blues.
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