HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Seeds Of Discord
Pubdate: Tue,  1 Jan 2002
Source: Reason Magazine (US)
Copyright: 2001 The Reason Foundation
Author: Jacob Sullum,
Bookmark: (Hemp)


Sowing Hemp Hysteria

IT TURNS out that the hand cream you bought at The Body Shop last year was a
controlled substance. But it's not anymore. Probably.

This is the upshot of two rules the Drug Enforcement Administration unveiled
in October. The first announced that all products containing the slightest
trace of THC, marijuana's main active ingredient, are prohibited substances.
This came as a surprise to the dozens of companies that for years have sold
products made from cannabis fiber, seeds, or oil. Such hemp products, which
include clothing, snacks, nutritional supplements, toiletries, and bird
food, may contain tiny amounts of THC, but not enough to get anyone high.

The second DEA rule exempted inedible THC-tainted hemp products from the
ban, provided that "using them does not cause THC to enter the human body."
The DEA is pretty sure that "personal care 'hemp' products" such as hand
cream, soap, and shampoo qualify for the exemption, although it is "unaware
of any scientific evidence definitively answering this question."

But edible hemp products--including dietary supplements, pasta, tortilla
chips, candy bars, salad dressings, cheese, and beer--are in the same legal
category as heroin. According to the DEA, they have been since 1970. It's
just that no one realized it until now.

The new rules apparently stem from concerns that hemp products could
interfere with drug testing. In 1997 the Journal of Analytical Toxicology
published two reports of studies finding that people who do not smoke pot
but consume hemp seed oil can test positive for marijuana. A few months
later, an Air Force sergeant who used the oil as a dietary supplement was
acquitted of marijuana charges. In 1999 the Air Force ordered its personnel
to stay away from the stuff. "Such applications for human consumption are
confounding our Federal drug control testing program," then-drug czar Barry
McCaffrey complained in a 2000 letter to U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii).

Laura Shelton, executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry
Association, says her group did not lobby for the ban, although she concedes
that "it will make it easier for our members who have come across this
situation." The American Association of Medical Review Officers, which
represents drug testing specialists, has been warning for years that
government-mandated urinalysis could be overturned on constitutional grounds
because hemp products make the results unreliable. "Products that cause a
positive THC urinalysis must be removed from commerce," said a 1997
editorial in the organization's journal, "or we will be forced by the courts
to stop testing for marijuana. "
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